Fungal Nail Infection

Fungal Nail Infection is a very very common condition found in many people of varying ages.

In addition to the information provided below I have also found that a very effective treatment is the application of one drop of neat Tea Tree oil to each affected nail once a day until stability and improvement to the nail(s) is achieved.

Another treatment that I have also found helpful is Vicks Vapour Rub! It really does work! Applied to the affected nail or skin (provided the skin is not broken) twice daily works exceptionally well!

However, it is very important to cease treatment should ANY adverse reaction occur or there is any irritation.

Also, very important to note, if you are diabetic, although there should be no harm in using Tea Tree Oil or Vicks Vapour Rub, I would suggest to any diabetic patient that they should first refer to either their diabetic nurse or GP to ensure that Tea Tree Oil or Vicks Vapour Rub is appropriate for them before commencing any treatment.

I suggest Tea Tree oil or Vicks Vapour Rub as a starting point before resorting to chemical paint or systemic tablet because it is a natural and easy treatment and, although these can take longer to take effect, they have proved over and over with many of my patients to be extremely effective as well as being something to try as a starting point.

Below is what the NHS advise on their website and the information should be borne in mind when deciding with your Foot Health Care Professional/GP the best course of action for you to deal with your Fungal Nail Infection.

Information below is taken from NHS Choices website:-


Fungal nail infection is a very common problem, affecting around three in every 100 people in the UK.

Around half of all nail problems are due to a fungal infection.

Fungal nail infection is about four times more common in toenails than fingernails and can involve part or all of the nail, including the nail plate, nail bed and root of the nail.


Fungal nail infection usually affects adults, and men more than women. It becomes more common as you get older.


Several types of fungus cause nail infections. For example, athlete’s foot is a fungal skin infection of the toes that easily spreads to the toenails; and candida is a yeast that can cause an infection of the skin around the nails (usually the fingernails).


Fungal nail infection usually looks unpleasant, but it does not always cause pain or any other symptoms.

The nail infection can be treated and usually cured, but treatment can take several months (see Treatment for more information).

Looking after your nails properly can stop the infection returning.


Fungal nail infection can look ugly because the nail often becomes thickened and discoloured. The nail can turn white, black, yellow or green.

The nail can sometimes become brittle, with pieces of nail breaking off or even coming away from the toe or finger completely.

Underneath and around the nail (the nailbed), the skin can sometimes become inflamed and painful.
If a toenail is infected and painful, it can become difficult to walk.


Athlete’s foot

Fungal nail infection in the toenail is most commonly caused by a fungal skin infection, such as athlete’s foot. Around a third of people with athlete’s foot will also have a nail infection.
Athlete’s foot usually affects the skin in between your toes, causing it to be red, flaky and itchy.
For more information on this condition, see Health A-Z: athlete’s foot

Other causes

Other causes of toenail infections include wearing sweaty trainers or often having hot, sweaty feet. Fungi grow easily in warm, damp environments.
Fingernail infections are most often caused by a yeast called candida. Occupations that include a lot of handwashing, or having your hands in water a lot, are often the cause of fingernail infections. This is because the skin at the base of your nail can become damaged, and therefore more likely to become infected.
Other factors that can increase the risk of nail infections include:

using artificial (cosmetic) nails,
nail damage,
constant nail biting,
having a health condition such as diabetes or psoriasis,
being immunosuppressed (having a weakened immune system),
being in poor general health,
living in a warm and humid climate, and

Nail infections are more likely to happen with increasing age. Sometimes, there is no apparent cause for an infection.


Your GP will send a clipping of your nail to a laboratory for tests to find out the exact cause of the infection.

They will then discuss appropriate treatments with you.

You may not need any treatment if your fungal nail infection is mild. However, if you do not treat the infection, there is a chance it will spread to other nails.

Serious fungal nail infections need to be treated. The main treatments are:

antifungal tablets, and
antifungal nail paints.

Your pharmacist or GP will advise you whether you need treatment, and if so, which type you need.
Antifungal tablets

Taking antifungal medication in the form of tablets means that the treatment reaches your nail via your bloodstream.

This can be a very effective way of treating fungal infections. However, you may have to take the tablets for several months to ensure that the infection has completely gone. Stopping the medication too early can mean that the infection comes back.

An advantage of the antifungal tablets is that they will clear any associated fungal skin infections, such as athlete’s foot, at the same time.

However, side effects can occur, such as headache, itching, loss of sense of taste, nausea and diarrhoea (see Medicines info).
Antifungal nail paint

If you prefer not to take antifungal tablets, your GP may suggest you try antifungal nail paint instead.

Nail paint is not considered as effective as the tablets because it has to be painted onto the infected nail and work its way through to the infection. It can be difficult to reach all of the infection.

A fingernail can need around six months of treatment, and a toenail up to twelve months.
Foot care during your treatment

During your treatment, you should start to see a new healthy nail begin to grow from the base of the nailbed. This is a sign that the treatment is working. The old infected nail should begin to grow out and can be clipped away over a few months.

Speak to your GP if you do not begin to see a new nail growing after taking your treatment for two to three weeks. Keep using the treatment until your GP says it is ok to stop. If you stop the treatment too early, the infection could return.

In most cases, fungal nail infections will not cause any further complications. However, if the infection is left untreated, it may cause pain and discomfort.

In toenails, this can eventually lead to difficulty wearing shoes and walking. In fingernails, this could cause difficulty writing.

If the infection spreads to the skin around the nail, it can result in cellulitis (bacterial infection under the skin) or osteomyelitis (infection of the bone). These complications more commonly occur among older people and people with health conditions such as diabetes.

Gemma Curd
Witterings Mobile Foot Clinic
Qualified Foot Practioners