Fungal nail infection

Fungal infection at the edge of the nail
Fungal infections usually start at the edge of the nail.
Infection spread to the middle of the toe
Infections often then spread to the middle. The nail becomes discoloured and lifts off.
Brittle nail with pieces missing
The nail becomes brittle and pieces can fall off.

Usually nail infections affect your toenails but you can get them on your finger nails too.

They can be painful and cause the skin around the nail to swell.

You can usually treat fungal nail infections yourself at home without seeing the GP.

The affected nail will grow out. It can take up to 12 months for a healthy nail to grow back.

Fungal nail infections are caused by a fungus. You are more likely to get them if you have athlete’s foot.

Medical detail about fungal nail infections

Treat smaller infections without medicine

You should:

If you can see a healthy nail grow back at the base the infection has stopped. Cut the old nail off as it grows out.

You can also buy antifungal nail paint online or at the pharmacy. It can take 6 to 12 months to cure the infection, depending on the size of the nail and it doesn’t always work.

If you have diabetes you should see a foot specialist because any injuries can lead to complications.

Use medicated cream for bigger or painful infections

You should use a cream that removes the nail if it’s:

You can buy the cream online (search for ‘fungal nail removal cream’) or at the pharmacy. It takes about 2 weeks to get rid of the infected nail and it’s painless.

See your GP for severe nail infections

Your GP can prescribe you tablets. The most common ones are terbinafine and itraconazole.

The tablets can have side effects including:

Antifungal tablets can damage your liver. Your GP will do a blood test before prescribing these as you shouldn’t take them if you have certain conditions or you’re pregnant.

Sometimes badly infected nails have to be removed by surgery. It’s a small operation done under local anaesthetic.

For severe infections you can also get laser treatment to destroy the fungus. However, you’ll have to pay for it yourself as it’s not covered by the NHS.

Keep your feet clean and dry to prevent nail infections

Nail infections develop when your feet are constantly warm and damp. You’re more likely to get an infection if you wear trainers for a long time and have hot, sweaty feet.

Things that will help prevent nail infections:

Treat athlete’s foot as soon as possible to avoid it spreading to the nails.