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A dermatologist takes a sample to analyze a nail infection. Nail fungus treatment can be simple and effective.

Dreaded Nail Fungus: How to Treat It and Keep It at Arm’s Length

Just the thought of nail fungus is enough to make someone cringe. Because it’s such an undesirable condition, many of us go to great lengths to avoid it. While the general public may know what causes nail fungus, most people don’t know what it really is and how it can be treated.

What we do know is this: Once you get it, it can get out of hand very quickly, so get it treated as soon as possible.

What Causes Fungus

Nail fungus is, quite simply, a fungal infection. It can spread easily from finger to finger, toe to toe, and person to person. People can pick up these tiny, microscopic fungi in a number of ways:

  • Having skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a fungal infection, such as athlete’s foot or ringworm.
  • Walking barefoot in a warm, moist area such as a pool deck or locker room, as these fungi thrive in these environments
  • Sharing an infected nail clipper or towel

Signs and Symptoms

The fungi infect a nail by getting into a small cut in the skin, a crack in the nail, or a separation between the nail and nail bed (the skin underlying the nail plate).

If you do get nail fungus, the following may occur:

  • Part of a nail turns a different color.
  • The nail lifts up.
  • Debris collects under the nail.
  • The surface of the nail feels dry and powdery.
  • The nail gets thinner or thicker.
  • The nail splits.

Nail Fungus Treatment Options

It’s important to seek treatment from a board-certified dermatologist soon after discovering signs of fungus. If you don’t, the condition could spread, becoming less manageable and possibly painful.

Treatment may start with trimming off the part of the nail that’s infected and sending it for culture or histologic examination to confirm the infection. Topical medication can be used to treat mild infections. These medications, which keep the fungus at bay until a healthier nail grows in, include Amorolfine, Ciclopirox, Efinaconazole, and Tavaborole. Fingernails grow out completely in about five months, and toenails can take up to 18 months. These topicals, while very safe, have a lower efficacy than oral medication.

More serious cases may require the use of antifungal pills. These medications, such as Fluconazole, Griseofulvin, Itraconazole, and Terbinafine, are rarely associated with side effects. A typical treatment course could be from one to three months.

Your dermatologist may also recommend using both pills and topical treatments.

The good news is that most people can clear a nail fungus with simple, safe treatments. Make an appointment with one of our dermatologists to learn more about nail fungus treatment options.