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Diseases & Conditions

Toenail Fungus

What is toenail fungus?

Also called onychomycosis, toenail fungus is a nail disorder that affects nearly 20 percent of the population. Toenail fungus usually begins in a small space between the end of the nail and the nail bed, where soft yellow material gradually accumulates. As the disorder progresses, the nail becomes thick and yellow and may show white spots and streaks. If toenail fungus is left untreated, the nail can eventually grow fragile or chalky, and in more severe cases crumble away.

What causes toenail fungus?

Toenail fungus is commonly caused by:

  • Damage to the nail
  • A warm moist shoe environment
  • Tight-fitting shoes
  • Walking barefoot in public areas

How can I prevent toenail fungus?

The best ways to prevent infection are:

  • Regularly inspect your feet and toes
  • Maintain clean and dry feet
  • Wash your feet with soap and water on a daily basis, remembering to dry them thoroughly
  • Change your shoes, socks, or hosiery on a daily basis
  • Clip your toenails straight across so that the nail does not extend beyond the tip of the toe
  • Use a quality foot powder like talcum, not cornstarch
  • Wearing properly fitting shoes

How is toenail fungus treated?

Toenail fungus can be treated effectively if detected. If you suspect that you may have toenail fungus, schedule an appointment with a podiatrist or dermatologist so that a suitable treatment plan can be designed. Depending on the extent of the condition, treatment options may include:

  • Topical medications
  • Oral antifungals (that can take from 3-12 months)
  • Removal of the diseased nail matter and debris
  • Laser therapy
References:

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 1/22/2013...#11303

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