What is toenail fungus?

Toenail fungus (also called onychomycosis) 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 develops.

As the disorder develops, 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, chalky, or crumbly; in more severe cases, the nail may 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 is toenail fungus treated?

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

  • Topical medication (applied directly to the nail)
  • Removal of the diseased nail matter and debris
  • Oral antifungals (these can take from 3 to 12 months)
  • Laser treatments

How can I prevent toenail fungus?

The best ways to prevent infection are to:

  • Inspect your feet and toes on a regular basis.
  • Keep your feet clean and dry.
  • Wash your feet with soap and water every day and dry them thoroughly.
  • Change your shoes, socks, or hosiery every day.
  • 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.
  • Wear shoes that fit properly.
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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: 1/11/2017...#11303