Fungal nail infections are common. They're not serious but they can take a long time to treat.
Symptoms and causes
Fungal nail infections usually affect your toenails. You can get them on your fingernails too.
Non-urgent advice: See a foot specialist if:
- you have diabetes and a foot injury
Foot injuries can lead to complications.
A pharmacist can help with fungal nail infections
Talk to a pharmacist if the look of your nail bothers you or it's painful.
They may suggest:
- antifungal nail cream – it can take up to 12 months to cure the infection and does not always work
- nail-softening cream – used for 2 weeks to soften the nail so you can scrape off the infection
When you see healthy nail growing back at the base, the infection has cleared up.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- your fungal nail infection is severe
- treatment has not worked or the infection has spread to other nails
Treatment from your GP
Your GP can prescribe antifungal tablets. You'll need to take these every day for up to 6 months.
Tablets can have side effects including:
- loss of taste
You cannot take antifungal tablets if you're pregnant or have certain conditions. They can damage your liver.
If your nail has a very bad infection, you may need to have it removed. This is a small procedure done under local anaesthetic.
Preventing fungal nail infections
Fungal nail infections develop when your feet are warm and damp a lot of the time. You're more likely to get an infection if you wear trainers for a long time and have hot, sweaty feet.
To prevent fungal nail infections:
treat athlete's foot as soon as possible to avoid it spreading to nails
keep your feet clean and dry
wear clean socks every day
wear flip flops in showers at the gym or pool
do not wear shoes that make your feet hot and sweaty
do not share towels
do not wear other people's shoes
do not share nail clippers or scissors
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE