Toe infections sound scary, but they’re infections of the nails, most commonly caused by ingrown toenails. The toenail grows into the side of the toe, into the soft tissue there, and the skin begins to grow over it. It can get infected very quickly and is most commonly seen in big toes. This condition is painful, and an infection can be a serious problem.

Athlete's foot, known medically as tinea pedis, is a common skin infection of the feet caused by fungus.[2] Signs and symptoms often include itching, scaling, cracking and redness.[3] In rare cases the skin may blister.[6] Athlete's foot fungus may infect any part of the foot, but most often grows between the toes.[3] The next most common area is the bottom of the foot.[6] The same fungus may also affect the nails or the hands.[4] It is a member of the group of diseases known as tinea.[7]
Fungus can infect the skin and nails of your feet. A fungal infection of the skin is also known as Athlete’s Foot, which causes itching, burning, and flaking. This infection can spread to the toenails if it’s not treated. Both types of foot fungus are extremely contagious, both in your own body as well as to other people through contact. Therefore, it’s essential to treat the infection and prevent its recurrence.
You can use simple home remedies to get rid of toenail fungus. Or a podiatrist can take care of toenail fungus, particularly if it is caught early. Topical or oral treatments can also work on toenail fungus, as well as the removal of the infected nail. A temporary removal can work to treat the area, but a permanent removal so that the bad nail won’t grow back can also be performed.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
Nail infections occur more often in men than in women, and the infections are found in adults more often than in children. If you have family members who often get these types of fungal infections, you’re more likely to get them as well. Older adults are at the highest risk for getting fungal infections of the nails because they have poorer circulation and their nails grow more slowly and thicken as they age.
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.  
Brittle (crumbly) nails and a whitish-yellowish or brownish discoloration are typical signs of nail fungus. The nails may also become thicker and change shape. The affected part of the nail sometimes detaches from the nail bed. The treatment options for nail fungus include nail polishes and creams as well as tablets. Nail polishes and creams are available in pharmacies without a prescription.
Oral antifungal therapy has a high cure rate, depending on the medication. It can take nine to 12 months to see if it has worked or not, because that is how long it takes for the nail to grow out. Even when therapy works, the fungus may come back. Currently, an oral antifungal therapy is considered the best treatment for toenail fungus because of higher cure rates and shorter treatment duration compared to topical therapy.

Tinea pedis, also known as athlete's foot or foot fungus, can cause recurrence of fungal nails. Therefore, it is important to manage this condition. One can apply over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal medicines such as clotrimazole (Lotrimin) or terbinafine (Lamisil) cream as directed to affected skin. Keeping footwear and socks clean can be helpful. You can also use portable UV light sanitizers to disinfect shoes.
The vesiculobullous type of athlete's foot is less common and is usually caused by T. mentagrophytes and is characterized by a sudden outbreak of itchy blisters and vesicles on an erythematous base,[7] usually appearing on the sole of the foot. This subtype of athlete's foot is often complicated by secondary bacterial infection by Streptococcus pyogenes or Staphylococcus aureus.[13]
Tea tree oil, also called melaleuca, is an essential oil with antifungal and antiseptic abilities. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, some small-scale clinical studies showed that tea tree oil might be effective against toenail fungus. To use, paint the tea tree oil directly onto the affected nail twice daily with a cotton swab. Find therapeutic-grade tea tree oil on Amazon.
Candida albicans is a common yeast that grows inside the human body. In healthy people, other bacteria and immune cells keep this yeast under control so it doesn’t cause any problems, but in some people candida can become overgrown and cause infections in various areas. One of the ways candida shows up is through the skin where it can cause noticeable reactions or infections. Other ways are on the mouth, vagina and anus.

Food intolerances — Some yeast infections are due to food allergies. Try to avoid foods that cause negative reactions of any kind and pay attention to symptoms you experience when eating things like dairy, eggs, certain nuts, wheat-containing foods and grains. If you think you have a food allergy or sensitivity, try an elimination diet to figure out what foods are causing intolerance and work on removing those foods.
Fungal nails (onychomycosis) may be caused by many species of fungi, but the most common is Trichophyton rubrum. Distal subungal onychomycosis starts as a discolored area at the nail's corner and slowly spread toward the cuticle. In proximal subungal onychomycosis, the infection starts at the cuticle and spreads toward the nail tip. Yeast onychomycosis is caused by Candida and may be the most common cause of fungal fingernail.
Sometimes people with a fungal nail infection are offered laser treatment. This involves shining infrared or ultraviolet (UV) light on the nail in order to kill the fungi. Laser treatments haven’t been proven to work in good quality studies. Because statutory health insurers in Germany don’t cover the costs of this treatment, people have to pay for it themselves.

There are many topical antifungal drugs useful in the treatment of athlete's foot including: miconazole nitrate, clotrimazole, tolnaftate (a synthetic thiocarbamate), terbinafine hydrochloride,[17] butenafine hydrochloride and undecylenic acid. The fungal infection may be treated with topical antifungal agents, which can take the form of a spray, powder, cream, or gel. Topical application of an antifungal cream such as terbinafine once daily for one week or butenafine once daily for two weeks is effective in most cases of athlete's foot and is more effective than application of miconazole or clotrimazole.[23] Plantar-type athlete's foot is more resistant to topical treatments due to the presence of thickened hyperkeratotic skin on the sole of the foot.[13] Keratolytic and humectant medications such as urea, salicyclic acid (Whitfield's ointment), and lactic acid are useful adjunct medications and improve penetration of antifungal agents into the thickened skin.[13] Topical glucocorticoids are sometimes prescribed to alleviate inflammation and itching associated with the infection.[13]
Onychomycosis does not necessarily require treatment.[3] The antifungal medication, terbinafine, taken by mouth appears to be the most effective but is associated with liver problems.[2][4] Trimming the affected nails when on treatment also appears useful.[2] There is a ciclopirox containing nail polish, but it does not work as well.[2] The condition returns in up to half of cases following treatment.[2] Not using old shoes after treatment may decrease the risk of recurrence.[3]

There are many topical antifungal drugs useful in the treatment of athlete's foot including: miconazole nitrate, clotrimazole, tolnaftate (a synthetic thiocarbamate), terbinafine hydrochloride,[17] butenafine hydrochloride and undecylenic acid. The fungal infection may be treated with topical antifungal agents, which can take the form of a spray, powder, cream, or gel. Topical application of an antifungal cream such as terbinafine once daily for one week or butenafine once daily for two weeks is effective in most cases of athlete's foot and is more effective than application of miconazole or clotrimazole.[23] Plantar-type athlete's foot is more resistant to topical treatments due to the presence of thickened hyperkeratotic skin on the sole of the foot.[13] Keratolytic and humectant medications such as urea, salicyclic acid (Whitfield's ointment), and lactic acid are useful adjunct medications and improve penetration of antifungal agents into the thickened skin.[13] Topical glucocorticoids are sometimes prescribed to alleviate inflammation and itching associated with the infection.[13]


Keeping socks and shoes clean (using bleach in the wash) is one way to prevent fungi from taking hold and spreading. Avoiding the sharing of boots and shoes is another way to prevent transmission. Athlete's foot can be transmitted by sharing footwear with an infected person. Hand-me-downs and purchasing used shoes are other forms of shoe-sharing. Not sharing also applies to towels, because, though less common, fungi can be passed along on towels, especially damp ones.
The ease with which the fungus spreads to other areas of the body (on one's fingers) poses another complication. When the fungus is spread to other parts of the body, it can easily be spread back to the feet after the feet have been treated. And because the condition is called something else in each place it takes hold (e.g., tinea corporis (ringworm) or tinea cruris (jock itch), persons infected may not be aware it is the same disease.
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.
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