Fungal nail infections generally progress very slowly.
The rate at which a fungal infection progresses depends on:
- Your overall health and
susceptibility to the infection.
- The levels of humidity and heat in your environment.
- The type of nail infected. Fungal nail infections of the toenail
have more time to grow and spread because toenails grow more slowly than
You may first notice a fungal nail infection when a nail or
skin under the nail (nail bed) becomes discolored, damaged, thickened, or
broken. If not treated, a fungal infection is likely to worsen and spread to
other parts of the nail, the nail bed, and possibly the surrounding skin. Over
time, the whole nail may become infected and damaged and may eventually fall
Fungal nail infections can be treated successfully, but some
types are more easily treated than others. The most
common type, distal subungual onychomycosis, can be a lifelong infection and
hard to treat. Another type, white superficial onychomycosis, can be easily
treated. Even after treatment, your nails may continue to look irregular in
shape and appearance. It can take a year or longer before they return to
Fungal nail infections often return. Of people
successfully treated with antifungal pills, 15% to 20% develop another
infection in the next year.4 After treatment, take
steps to prevent reinfection, such as using antifungal creams and keeping your
Sometimes, people with a fungal nail infection may have
another problem that can make it hard to walk. For example, you may have
decreased blood circulation in your feet and toes. This can worsen foot
ulcers in people with
diabetes and ulcers caused by poor circulation (venous skin ulcer).
Bacterial infection can develop as a
complication of a fungal nail infection. A common bacterial infection, acute
paronychia, causes inflammation and swelling of the
skin and tissues near a fingernail or toenail.
Quality of life
Although a fungal nail
disorder is not dangerous to your health, it can affect your quality of life.
You may avoid some activities because of the appearance of your nails and fear
of spreading the disease to others. Pain may limit your activities and
interfere with work. You may worry about treatment, because insurance companies
sometimes consider the condition a cosmetic problem and limit coverage of
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