Fungal nail

A fungal nail infection can be embarrassing and painful – learn more about fungal nail. 

Fungal nail (onychomycosis) is a fungal infection of the nail, caused by fungi that commonly thrive in warm and moist environments. People who wear trainers for a lengthy periods of time and have hot sweaty feet have an increased chance of getting the infection. Fungal nail infections are seven times more likely to occur on your toenails compared to fingernails, but you can get them on your fingernails too. 

Closeup view of woman’s feet with beautiful healthy nails after Canesten fungal nail treatment

Fungal Nail Symptoms

    You might have a fungal nail infection if you notice:

    • White or yellow streaks on the nail

    • Yellow toenails or discoloured toenails

    • Thickening or distortion of the nail

    • Brittle or crumbly nails – pieces may break off and come away completely

    • Loss of lustre and shine

    • Loosening or lifting up of the nail

    • Debris trapped under the nail

    • An odour coming from the infected nail

    See your doctor if:

    • Your fungal nail infection is severe and treatment has not worked

    • The infection has spread to other nails 

    • You have diabetes because any foot injury can lead to complications of diabetes

    • You are pregnant

    Understanding Fungal Nail

    A fungal nail infection can affect part of the nail, the entire nail, or several nails. The infection can occur on the surface of your nail or on the underside of the nail where your nail meets your nail bed (the skin under the nail).

    The part of the nail the infection affects, and your exact fungal nail symptoms depend on the type of fungal nail infection you have. The two most common forms are:

    Distal and lateral subungual onychomycosis (DLSO)

    These infections are the most common type of fungal nail infection. They occur when the nail fungus invades the underside of the nail where the nail meets the nail bed. The tip of the nail is affected first, causing discoloured toenails or fingernails. White, yellow or brown vertical stripes may also appear on the nail as the infection spreads from the tip towards the base of the nail. As the infection progresses, the edge of the nail may become brittle and pieces can break off. You might also notice the nail lifting off the nail bed. This is caused by the fungus breaking down the nail and depositing debris called keratin under the nail which builds up and causes the nail to lift off. 

    Superficial white onychomycosis (SWO)

    These are the second most common type of fungal nail infection. Unlike distal and lateral subungual infections this infection affects the top layer of the nail rather than the nail bed. It initially forms white spots on the surface which gradually spread to the entire nail, causing it to become soft and crumbly. The top of the nail becomes covered with chalky powder due to the infection. 

    What causes fungal nail?

    Fungal nail is most commonly caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes which infect the nail and the nail bed. It is highly contagious and transmitted in places like shower cubicles, swimming pools and changing rooms where people are barefoot. Toenail fungus can also be transferred in nail salons where the same nail accessories are used for many customers. Furthermore, nail trauma can also increase the chances of developing a fungal nail infection.

    Who is at risk of getting a fungal nail infection?

    Fungal nail infections can affect anyone as they are very contagious but are most prevalent in older individuals. You are more likely to develop fungal nail if you are over the age of 60. Gender also plays a role, with men three times more likely to have a fungal nail infection than women. 

    Other risk factors include:

    • Diabetes 

    • Diseases that cause poor blood circulation 

    • A weakened immune system

    Sporty man with black watch tying shoelace

    Fungal nail treatment 

    Even if you feel embarrassed by your infection, it is it is always recommended to consult your pharmacist or doctor for treatment options. 

    Fungal nail will not clear up on its own and fungal nail treatment will depend on the severity of the infection. Fungal nail infections can take long time to clear because your nail grows slowly, and you will only notice improvement once a new nail has grown through.

    If your infection is mild your pharmacist may suggest:

    • Anti-fungal nail cream – it can take up to 12 months to cure the infection and does not always work
    • Nail-softening cream – used for 2 weeks to soften the nail so the infection can be scraped off

    If your fungal nail symptoms are severe, your GP may prescribe you a course of oral anti-fungal tablets. In the most serious cases, the infected toenail can be chemically or surgically removed. Laser therapy can also be recommended for fungal nail treatment. 

    Canespro® fungal nail treatment

    Canespro® Fungal Nail Treatment Set from the makers of Canesten is the shortest treatment* towards healthy nails. 

    Canespro® urea ointment is clinically proven to soften the infected part of the nail only. Then, the infected part of the nail can be gradually removed, showing visible results in just 2-3 weeks*. The set also includes special plasters to cover and protect the nail while you’re using the urea ointment. Canespro enables you to get to the main root of the infection – as fungal nail infections can occur under the nail plate. 

    *Refers to OTC fungal nail products. After treating with Canespro, a follow-up treatment with an anti-fungal nail cream is recommended. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

    How to prevent fungal nail

    Canesten athlete’s foot icon

    Suffering from athlete's foot? Make sure you treat it as soon as possible as foot fungus can spread and affect your toenails, causing fungal nail.

    Canesten trimmed toenail icon

    Keep your toenails short and trimmed. The correct way to cut or file them is straight across, not in a rounded or v shape to prevent an infected toenail.

    Canesten nail clippers icon

    Do not share toenail clippers. Clippers, files and nail accessories can contribute to spreading toenail fungus when not properly sterilised.

    Canesten shoes icon

    Avoid wearing tight-fitting shoes. They can damage the nail and also create a moist environment in which fungi spores can thrive.

    Canesten hanging bath towel icon

    Avoid sharing your towels, shoes and socks with other people.

    Canesten foot icon

    Wear flip flops in public places e.g. swimming pools and changing rooms to avoid catching toenail fungus.

    Facts about fungal nail infection

    Canesten toenail fungus icon

    Fungal nail is common and accounts for up to 50% of all nail diseases.

    Canesten public shower icon

    Changing rooms, public showers and unsterilised equipment in nail salons all put you at increased risk of a fungal nail infection.

    Canesten hand washing icon

    Remember to wash your hands! Contact with a person suffering from a fungal nail infection can be enough to develop the condition.