Fungal Nail Infections: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

fungal nail infectionA problem which effects approximately 3% of the UK population, fungal nail infections also account for around half of all nail health problems. They occur far more in toenails (four times a likely compared to fingernails) due to the enclosed environment found around most toenails.

You are more prone to get infected the older you get and infections in men more common.


  • The nail becomes thickened.
  • The nail becomes discoloured – it can turn green, yellow, black or white.
  • At first the is no pain or discomfort but this can change if left untreated for a long time.
  • The nail can become brittle – bits of ir may break off.
  • The skin around an untreated, infected nail may become inflamed causing discomfort.
  • Yellow or while patched on the nail bed – under the nail.
  • Walking with and infected toenail or writing with an infected fingernail may become uncomfortable.


The infection is cause by fungus – hence the name. There are a number of different fungi which can lead to a nail infection:

  • Athletes food, a fungus infection the skin around toe nails can spread and lead to toenail infections.
  • Candida, a yeast can cause infection of fingernails.
  • A broken nail is more likely to become infected.
  • The infection can pass between nail – particularly between toe and fingernail though scratching for example.
  • Frequent washing of the nail increase the chance of them becoming infected by removing the protective layer at the base of the nail allowing the fungus to enter and spread.
  • Fungi love warm, humid environments so if your shoes cause you feet to sweat this will increse the chances.
  • Those suffering from certain health conditions such as psoriasis and diabetes also increase the risk.


If your infection is very mild, causes you no discomfort and is not noticeable (for example on a small toenail) you can chose to just leave it alone as treatments can take a long time (several months) to cure the nail. If the infection becomes worse then you can look into taking steps to remove it.

There are two common types of treatment: tablets and paint-on lacqure (Curanail). Your pharmasist or doctor can recommend the type which suits your fungal nail infection the most.

Anti-fungal tablets

When you take these tablets any fungal infections (not just infections of the nail) are treated though your bloodstream. You would need to take them for several months to ensure you kill of all of the infection. If you decide to use anti-fungal tablets you doctor will recommend either Itraconazole or Terbinafine. Tablets have the advantage of treating other fungal infections (of the skin) as well as of the nail including athletes foot but many decide not yo use them due to a risk of side effects.

  • Treatment can take anywhere between 2 and 6 months
  • Tablets need to be taken once or twice a day.
  • Clears the fungal infection in 70% of cases.
  • Restores the nail to a normal appearance in 50% of cases.
  • Also treats any fungal skin infections.
  • Side effects sometimes include: itching, headache, nausea, diarrhoea and a loss of your sense of taste.

Anti-fungal nail lacquer (Curanail)

Whilst being as effective as anti-fungal tablets, nail lacquers such as Curanail will not produce any side effects. Treatment is applied once a week only, for 6 or 9 months for fingernails and toenails respectively. You can buy Curanail from pharmacies with or without a prescription

  • Clears the fungal fingernail infection in 85% of cases
  • Clears the fungal toenail infection in 76% of cases
  • Treatment is applied once per week for 6 months (fingernails) or 9 months (toenail)
  • No side effects
  • Available over the counter as well as on prescription

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