Fungal Infections of Toenails ( Onychomycosis )

Fungal infections of the toenails often follow an athletes foot infection and are an unpleasant but common problem, affecting just under a quarter of the population.

Fungal infections take a long time to penetrate and affect the nail plate, this means that generally older people are more often affected with this condition. The infection is not usually painful but causes a mild discolouration of the nail. The infection can spread to other toenails, with nails becoming thickened, brittle and white/yellowish-brown or even black in colour, eventually developing a “worm eaten” porous appearance.


Some skin conditions and medical problems manifest themselves by changing the toenail appearances and look like fungal infections. It is important to obtain a correct assessment and diagnosis.

What a Chiropodist/Podiatrist Can Do

Scrapings of the toenail can be obtained for positive culture and identification.

Toenail infections are more difficult to clear than skin infections. Infected nails usually thicken so it is best for your chiropodist / podiatrist to thin the nail down as far as possible before using a treatment such as a paint or cream. This enables the treatment to reach the affected area in the most effective way.

1. No treatment: This is always a valid option but the fungus can spread over time. It also can act as a source of skin fungal infections and so lead to athletes foot.

2. Toenail paints/lacquers: Let your  chiropodist / podiatrist  thin the nail down as far as possible before using a treatment such as a paint or cream. This is a long term treatment (usually 12 months) and has limited success (around 50% maximum success rate

3. Oral medication: These are available on prescription from your GP. They are generally more effective than other options. Once the course of treatment has been completed the toenail may take several months to improve in appearance as it takes approximately 12-18 months for a toenail to grow completely from base to tip.