Toenail fungus (onychomycosis) is caused by a group of fungi known as dermophytes. This group thrives on skin and on keratin, the main component of hair and nails. The fungus gets under the nail and begins to grow, damaging the nail so it discolors, becoming white, brown or yellow. Eventually, the nail might thicken, harden, become brittle and even fall off.

Dermatologists specialize in the treatment of skin disorders, including athlete's foot. You may find a board-certified dermatologist through http://www.aad.org. Additionally, family medicine physicians, internal medicine physicians, pediatricians, podiatrists (foot doctors), and other practitioners may also treat this common infection. Most primary care physicians can treat athlete's foot successfully.
Athlete's foot was first medically described in 1908.[9] Globally, athlete's foot affects about 15% of the population.[2] Males are more often affected than females.[4] It occurs most frequently in older children or younger adults.[4] Historically it is believed to have been a rare condition, that became more frequent in the 1900s due to the greater use of shoes, health clubs, war, and travel.[10]
“The medications we use to treat this are expensive and they are not benign,” cautioned Dr. Hinkes. “Lamisil is so powerful it stays in your body six months after you stop using it, and that’s one of the reasons why it works so well. So when we use these medicines, we have to be conscious that we may be affecting a person’s liver, because the liver is the organ that helps to detoxify the body and excretes that medicine.”
Select shoes that fit right –  Choosing the correct footwear is a must if you want to avoid toenail fungus. Shoes should not touch your toenails at all. Don’t jam your feet into shoes that are too big either – this will cause you to jam your toenail into the front of the shoe causing damage. According to the American Academy of Physicians, the best shoes have a wide toe box.
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.
Treating the feet is not always enough. Once socks or shoes are infested with fungi, wearing them again can reinfect (or further infect) the feet. Socks can be effectively cleaned in the wash by adding bleach or by washing in water 60° C (140° F).[32] Washing with bleach may help with shoes, but the only way to be absolutely certain that one cannot contract the disease again from a particular pair of shoes is to dispose of those shoes.
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Starts at the base of the nail and raises the nail up: This is called "proximal subungual onychomycosis." This is the least common type of fungal nail. It is similar to the distal type, but it starts at the cuticle (base of the nail) and slowly spreads toward the nail tip. This type almost always occurs in people with a damaged immune system. It is rare to see debris under the tip of the nail with this condition, unlike distal subungual onychomycosis. The most common cause is T. rubrum and non-dermatophyte molds.
Oral medications include terbinafine (76% effective), itraconazole (60% effective) and fluconazole (48% effective).[2] They share characteristics that enhance their effectiveness: prompt penetration of the nail and nail bed,[23] and persistence in the nail for months after discontinuation of therapy.[24] Ketoconazole by mouth is not recommended due to side effects.[25] Oral terbinafine is better tolerated than itraconazole.[26] For superficial white onychomycosis, systemic rather than topical antifungal therapy is advised.[27]
Dermatophytes — fungus that grows on the skin, hair and nails but don’t penetrate tissues of the body. Athlete’s foot or Trichophyton rubrum is the most common dermatophyte and can actually infect the toenails. Infection can also begin by touching objects that have dermatophytes on them, such as nail clippers, nail files, socks, shoes, shower floors, etc. Dermatophytes are the cause of most fungal toenail infections.

When athlete's foot fungus or infested skin particles spread to one's environment (such as to clothes, shoes, bathroom, etc.) whether through scratching, falling, or rubbing off, not only can they infect other people, they can also reinfect (or further infect) the host they came from. For example, infected feet infest one's socks and shoes which further expose the feet to the fungus and its spores when worn again.
If you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, treatment is especially important. After getting a fungal nail infection, people who have diabetes have an increased risk of developing sores that do not heal. Sores that do not heal can lead to a serious health problem. It’s important to see a dermatologist (or other doctor) at the first sign of a nail problem. A dermatologist can tell you whether you have a nail infection or something else.
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