FAQ’s About Fungal Nails

How common is it?

It is very common Sometimes I in 4 of a countries population is affected. The likelihood decreases in cold dry climates. The liklihood increases in hot, sultry/humid climates.

What does it look like?

It presents itself in a variety of guises. It can cause the nails to thicken and look unsightly. It can change the colour of the part of the nail attached to the nail bed from a healthy looking pale pink colour, to an unsightly off white, yellow or even black. The colour change may affect the whole nail or appear as just patches or flecks. The texture of the nail can change from being smooth and flat, to thick, ridged and be pitted or crumbly.

How does this happen to the nail?

It is often spread as a fungal spore from another part of the body.
People who are prone to athlete’s foot ( a fungal infection of the skin), tend to develop fungal nails eventually.
From wearing shoes/socks belonging to someone who has fungal nails.
If you have a weakened immune system, due to having chemotherapy, having an illness such as aids, teenagers having significant growth spurts, if you have diabetes etc.
Also as the fungal spores can travel through the air your infection may have no apparent cause, literally coming straight from thin air!.

How many nails get infected?

This varies from person to person. It can range from one nail on one foot to all ten nails on both feet.

What happens when the nail gets infected?

Again this varies from person to person. Some people may just get a few white patches or flecks on one or more nails, with no pain. Whereas other people may have one or more badly infected nails, with large off white, yellow or black patches and the nail could partially detach causing pain whilst walking, thus restricting mobility.

How do I know if I have fungal nails?

This is a very important question. In the first instance if you believe that you have one or more fungal nails, it is imperative that you seek a G. P or other health professional’s advice before applying ‘over the counter’ treatments as other nail conditions may present similar symptoms. They will do a visual examination, ask you some questions and send a few clippings from the affected nail for analysis. What treatments are there? There are anti fungal drugs that can be supplied by the G.P. on prescription, they are taken orally and are systemic, these can take weeks or months to work and they tend to present side effects in some patients. There are anti fungal topical creams that are rubbed on the affected nail, these are milder but you have to be sure not to rub it into non-affected skin as it can make it sore. In some applications, an anti fungal liquid can be applied with a brush, rather like nail varnish. These can be bought ‘over the counter’ should a G.P. give you an initial prescription and then you could continue the treatment at home. The nail could be reduced by a mechanical sander, by a qualified health professional.

How do I kill off the fugal spores in my shoes?

You can put them in a sealed bag and pop them in the freezer every night. Also you could buy anti fungal sprays and use them daily to kill off fungal spores lurking in your shoes.

Will it come back?

Yes it can comeback and in some cases it never goes away. If you do succeed in getting rid of it, a good idea would be to keep a tube of cream in the house so that you can apply it in case or as soon as it returns.


Disclaimer – this article is intended for information purposes only. It obviously should not be used to self diagnose or treat a fungal nail infection. All information is researched with reasonable care,but I will accept no warranty as to it’s accuracy, as I have stated you must always consult a G.P or other health professional in the first instance for any treatment or diagnosis of medical conditions.


Fungal nail infection, clinical knowledge summaries. (may 2009)

Guidelines for treatment Onychomycosis, British Assoc. Of

Dermatologists (2003).

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