Dealing With a Fungal Nail Infection

What Is a Fungal Nail Infection?

A fungal nail infection or nail fungus is a condition that mostly affects toenails, making them brittle and discolored. The infection is caused by microorganisms known as fungi.

Fungi, in small amounts, can live on the skin of your hands and feet without causing any trouble. But small cracks in your nail or the surrounding skin can allow them to sneak into the nail bed and infect it. The infection, formally known as onychomycosis (on-ih-koh-mi-KOH-sis), often starts as a white or yellow spot under the infected nail. The nail may get thicker, discolored, and crumble as the fungal infection worsens. 

Many people who suffer from nail fungal infections only complain about the unpleasant appearance of the infected nail(s). But for others, the condition could be painful and lead to bleeding or difficulty walking. 

Even though the condition may resolve without intervention in some mild cases, it could also worsen and spread to an otherwise healthy nail without medical treatment. If you have observed any unhealthy changes to your nails, do not hesitate to seek medical help. A skilled podiatrist can help you find relief if your toenails have been affected.

Signs and Symptoms of a Fungal Nail Infection

The following symptoms are commonly associated with fungal nail infections:


If your nail starts to change from its regular color to white, yellow, brown, or any other unusual hue, it could be a sign of nail fungus. The discoloration often starts small in one spot before spreading over the affected nail.


If your nail starts to thicken to the point where it’s difficult to clip, nail fungus may be responsible. This could be uncomfortable, especially if you wear covered shoes often and your toenails are affected. If left untreated, the condition could get worse and more painful. Once you observe such a change in your nails, seek treatment immediately.

Brittle or Crumbly Nails

If the surface of your nails becomes soft and brittle to the point where they disintegrate at the slightest touch, you may have a fungal nail infection. In such cases, you could lose the entire nail if you don’t get treatment immediately.

Smelly Nails

Infected nails often have an unpleasant smell. If you notice a smell on your nails that doesn’t go away after a bath or wash, nail fungus may be the culprit. 

You may experience multiple symptoms or one at a time. The important thing is to seek professional help once you notice any negative changes in your finger or toenails and arrest the situation before it worsens. 

Who Is at Risk for Nail Fungus?

Some of the risk factors for nail fungal infections are as follows:


Older adults have a higher risk of infection than young people. It is also rare for a child below six to have a fungal nail infection. The older you get, the higher your nail fungal infection risk. 


Men are more likely to get a fungal nail infection. The reason for this is unclear. It could be because most men don’t pay as much attention to foot care as women do.


Fungi thrive in warm, humid climates like Africa or the Dominican Republic, where it is hard to keep feet dry, especially during the rainy season. Living in such areas puts you at risk for nail fungus. If you do get infected, perhaps while you’re vacationing in the Dominican Republic, you may need to visit a Podiatrist in Santo Domingo for treatment.

Pre-existing Health Conditions

People with a weakened immune system or certain health conditions, such as diabetes, are susceptible to frequent fungal nail infections, especially of the toes. In such cases, urgent medical attention is required to stop the infection from spreading. If you’re dealing with diabetes and toenail fungus, consider visiting a skilled podiatrist for a podiatry diabetic foot assessment so you can get the appropriate treatment. 

How Is Fungal Nail Infection Treated? 

Over-the-counter treatments such as antifungal nail polish or topical antifungal creams may work for mild cases of fungal nail infections.

More severe cases would likely require oral antifungals prescribed by a podiatrist or an appropriate health professional. You might be required to take the medicine for a few months to properly eliminate the infection. It is important to complete the prescribed dosage even if your nails have returned to normal. Some fungi are stubborn, and infection could reoccur if treatment is not completed. 

In extreme cases, your doctor might need to remove the infected nail through surgery. Don’t worry; the nail will grow back after a while.  

There are other treatment options, like laser treatment, that could effectively get rid of your nail fungus. The appropriate treatment option for each affected person would depend on various factors, including the extent of the infection and the person’s medical history.

Do not treat nail fungus on your own. Please consult a professional and let them determine the appropriate treatment regimen for you.


How to Prevent Fungal Nail Infections

Most fungal nail infections are preventable with lifestyle changes and proper hygiene. If you’ve been battling recurrent infections or you want to avoid being afflicted altogether, here are a few tips that could help;

  • Try not to share nail clippers with others. You can get infected if you share nail clippers with an infected person. If you have to share or go to a nail salon, ensure the clippers are cleaned with soap and water and disinfected with rubbing alcohol before and after each use.

  • Wear flip-flops in warm, moist areas like pools and gyms.

  • Disinfect old shoes worn before treatment began. 

  • Wear clean socks daily.

  • Keep your fingernails and toenails short and clean.

  • Wash your hands and feet often, and wear nail polish and artificial nails less.

  • Try some antifungal powder for shoes and feet. 

  • Treat any nail injury immediately after it occurs. 

Worried About Your Toenail Fungal Infection? Call Reputable Podiatrist Dr. Ivan Silva

Dr. Ivan Silva is a skilled podiatric physician with offices in New York, New Jersey, and Santo Domingo in the Caribbean. He has spent more than two decades ensuring the ankle and foot health of thousands of patients. 

At Dr. Silva’s practice, we understand that foot ailments can make life difficult. Hence we are committed to providing outstanding medical services to our patients so they can “get back on their feet.”

Contact us to schedule a consultation. Let us assess the extent of your infection or foot ailment before we decide on the next steps. Your feet are safe in our hands.