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.

In some cases of suspected nail fungus there is actually no fungal infection, but only nail deformity. A 2003 source gives a figure of 50%[17] whereas a more recent source claims that fungus is present in 65 to 95 percent of cases.[18] Avoiding use of oral antifungal therapy (e.g. terbinafine) in persons without a confirmed infection is a particular concern because of the possible side effects of that treatment.[17] However, according to a 2015 study, the cost in the United States of testing with the periodic acid–Schiff stain (PAS) was about $148. Even if the cheaper KOH test is used first and the PAS test is used only if the KOH test is negative, there is a good chance that the PAS will be done (because of either a true or a false negative with the KOH test). But the terbinafine treatment only cost $10 (plus an additional $43 for liver function tests). In conclusion the authors say that terbinafine has a relatively benign adverse effect profile, with liver damage very rare, so it makes more sense cost-wise for the dermatologist to prescribe the treatment without doing the PAS test. (Another option would be to prescribe the treatment only if the potassium hydroxide test is positive, but it gives a false negative in about 20% of cases of fungal infection.) On the other hand, as of 2015 the price of topical (non-oral) treatment with efinaconazole was $2307 per nail, so testing is recommended before prescribing it.[18]


​The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) offers information on this site as an educational service. The content of FootCareMD, including text, images and graphics, is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses or treatments. If you need medical advice, use the "Find an Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Surgeon" tool at the top of this page or contact your primary doctor. 

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.


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