What you need to know about fungal infections Some fungi occur naturally in the body, and they can be helpful or harmful. An infection occurs when an invasive fungus becomes too much for the immune system to handle. We describe the most common types, including yeast infection, jock itch, and ringworm. Here, learn about risk factors and the range of treatments. Read now

Modern medicine addresses toenail fungus with topical treatments, oral anti-fungal medicine, and in some cases surgical removal of the nail.  Side effects of these medications may possibly include trouble breathing, swelling of the mouth or face, hives, rashes, blisters, headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, liver damage, weight gain, fatigue, heart problems, fever, diarrhea, and more pain – all just to get rid of fungus on your toenails.
Ciclopirox (Penlac) topical solution 8% is a medical nail lacquer that has been approved to treat finger or toenail fungus that does not involve the white portion of the nail (lunula) in people with normal immune systems. In one study, ciclopirox got rid of the fungus 22% of the time. The medication is applied to affected nails once daily for up to one year. The lacquer must be wiped clean with alcohol once a week.
What triggers candida in the first place? This overgrowth of yeast can develop from a number of factors, including antibiotic use, poor digestion, low immune system function, a high sugar and grain diet, stress or hormonal changes. All these create an acidic environment that encourages yeast growth and the presence of candida. Many people opt for over-the-counter anti-fungal creams or even medications, but they only treat the symptoms, not the environment that allows candida to flourish.
Occlusive shoe materials, such as vinyl, which cause the feet to remain moist, provide an excellent area for the fungus to proliferate. Likewise, absorbent socks like cotton that wick water away from your feet may help. Some individuals who sweat excessively benefit from the application of antiperspirants like 20% aluminum chloride (Drysol). Powders can help keep your feet dry. Although counterintuitive, if your feet can be soaked in a solution of aluminum acetate (Burow's solution or Domeboro solution) and then air dried with a fan, this can be very helpful if performed three or four times within 30 minutes. A home remedy of dilute white vinegar soaks, using one part vinegar and roughly four parts water, once or twice a day (as 10-minute foot soaks) may aid in treatment followed by evaporation can be helpful.
Fungal athlete's foot may cause a rash on one or both feet and even involve the hand. A "two feet and one hand" pattern is a very common presentation of athlete's foot, especially in men. Hand fungal infections are called tinea manuum. Fungal athlete's foot may also be seen along with ringworm of the groin (especially in men) or hand(s). It is helpful to examine the feet whenever there is a fungal groin rash called tinea cruris, or jock itch. It is important to treat all areas of fungal infection at one time to avoid reinfection. Simply treating the soles and ignoring the concurrent fungal infection of toenails may result in recurrences of athlete's foot.
Technically called “onychomycosis”, fungal infection of the nail plate (the hard outer nail) or nail bed (that lies under the hard nail) will most often appear as yellowish, white, black or green discolouration of the nail. The infected nail may also appear thickened or brittle. In severe cases, from long-term infection (where all the tissues of the nail have been infected), the infected nail may break up and fall off.
Patience is key, as treatment duration varies from 2-3 months for oral treatments to up to 12 months for topical treatment. Because the nails take a long time to grow (6 months for fingernails and 12-18 months for toenails), it will take some time for the infection to resolve and the nail appearance to improve, regardless of the type of treatment used. Sometimes treatment may not be successful and your doctor may prescribe a different medication.

You may use other antifungal treatments, such as antifungal nail lacquer or topical solutions. These treatments are brushed onto the nail in the same way that you would apply nail polish. Depending on the type of fungus causing the infection, as well as the extent of the infection, you may have to use these medications for several months. Topical solutions are not generally effective in curing toenail fungal infections.


Nail-bed fungus is also called onychomycosis. It can affect anyone regardless of age, gender and hygiene and is spread by direct contact with skin or with infected surfaces. Common places you may be exposed to fungus are at nail salons, as well as showers at hotels, pools, nail salons, and gyms where you go barefoot. Housemates and family members with a fungal infection may also spread their condition.

Making a few simple lifestyle changes can help prevent a fungal infection of the nails. Taking good care of your nails by keeping them well trimmed and clean is a good way to prevent infections. You should also avoid injuring the skin around your nails. If you’re going to have damp or wet hands for an extended amount of time, you may want to wear rubber gloves.

Dr. Kyoung Min Han is a podiatrist (foot and ankle specialist) practicing in Southern California. Dr. Han completed her undergraduate education at the University of California, San Diego, and went on to the New York College of Podiatric Medicine to pursue her medical training. She returned to her native Southern California to complete a three-year foot and ankle surgical residency, followed by subspecialty training in a sports medicine fellowship.


Dr. Kyoung Min Han is a podiatrist (foot and ankle specialist) practicing in Southern California. Dr. Han completed her undergraduate education at the University of California, San Diego, and went on to the New York College of Podiatric Medicine to pursue her medical training. She returned to her native Southern California to complete a three-year foot and ankle surgical residency, followed by subspecialty training in a sports medicine fellowship.
Athlete’s foot—the most prevalent foot fungus—thrives in warm, sweaty places like the insides of your athletic shoes, which is how it got its name. However, foot fungus can develop in multiple environments, natural and man-made, as long as there is lots of moisture where fungi can grow. These include shared areas at gyms or pools, soil and grass, or even shared items such as shoes, socks, or towels from household members who are infected.  

Not all cases of OM require treatment with medication but if your doctor has confirmed you have OM and require treatment, they may prescribe an oral antifungal medication (terbinafine, itraconazole*) based on the type of fungus causing the infection. If you are unable to take oral antifungals or have a mild-to-moderate case of OM, your doctor may opt for a topical therapy (ciclopirox, efinaconazole*) that is applied to the affected nail(s) directly.
Toenail fungus is an infection that gets in through cracks in your nail or cuts in your skin. It can make your toenail change color or get thicker. It can also hurt. Because toes are often warm and damp, fungus grows well there. Different kinds of fungi and sometimes yeast affect different parts of the nail. Left untreated, an infection could spread to other toenails, skin, or even your fingernails.
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