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Fungal Nails

Fungal nails can cause yellowing (and other discolouration) of the nails and can affect the fingers or toes. The greatest concern with fungal nails is that they are unsightly, but there are a number of ways that podiatry treatment can help with them.

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A close up of the toes of a person's right foot which has fungus in the big toenail and other nail pathologies too.

About Fungal Nail Infections

The nails are made up of three different layers, and each layer contains keratin. The keratin is what the nail fungus lives on. 

Treating nail fungus can often be tricky depending on which layer of the nail plate the fungus is in and whether the nail has any other issues, such as if it is thickened. 

Symptoms of Fungal Nails

Symptoms of fungal nails are:

  • Discolouration of the nail plate, including:​

    • Yellowing of the nail​

    • Browning of the nail

  • The discolouration can either be a section of the nail, the whole of the nail, or sometimes a streak along the nail​

  • Thickening of the nail

  • Crumbling of the nail

  • Holes in the nail

A thickened and fungal big toe nail with bruising under the nail plate.
A fingernail with psoriatic changes and concurrent fungal infection.

What else could it be?

Nails can provide a lot of information about your health and, because they are in areas which get a lot of wear and tear, it is easy to cause them damage. 

Other conditions that might look like fungal nails are: 

  • Psoriatic nails

  • Subungual naevi

  • Green Nail Syndrome

  • Subungual melanoma

How is nail fungus diagnosed?

Typically, fungal nails can be diagnosed based on their appearance alone, however it is possible to take nail scrapings and send them to a laboratory. This can take a number of weeks for results to be returned though. 

Part of the diagnostic process is also to identify if you have any other conditions - such as psoriasis, which may be causing the nail's appearance to have changed. 

In the case of vertical dark streaks along the nail, it may be necessary to perform dermoscopy in order to rule out subungual melanoma. 

A scientist holding a petri dish which has grown some micro-organsims.
A podiatrist using an electric file to remove the top layer of a toenail.

How are Fungal Nails treated?

Treatment depends on the extent of the infection and in which layers the fungus is found. 

As always, treatment should be as conservative as possible, however the principles of treatment are:

  1. Remove as much infected nail as possible

  2. Expose any nail that cannot be removed so as to allow anti-fungals to effectively treat any remaining fungus.

  3. Prevent the fungus from spreading.

This can be achieved through:

How long does it take to cure Fungal nails?

Treating a fungal nail can be a long and slow process. Depending on the extent of the infection, it can take a year to 'clear' the infection and potentially a couple of years for the nails appearance to really improve. 

This being said, in a lot of instances, conservative treatment with the thinning and filing of the nail can create a dramatic improvement in appearance and reduce embarrassment significantly - this means that any concerns you have about your nail's appearance can be resolved by the end of a podiatry appointment. 

A pair of ladies feet with health looking nails.
Ready to say goodbye to those fungal nails?

At Keep On Your Feet, we openly acknowledge that we cannot guarantee a cure for things: but we will work as hard as we can with you to help you reach your goals. 

If your symptoms fit the above, you will need to book a 'Routine Foot Care' Initial consultation. This will be £55 and lasts approximately 40 minutes. If you require a prescription treatment that we cannot offer, then we can write to your GP to request this on your behalf (this may incur a charge in some instances).

This is a picture of Jeremy Ousey, director and podiatrist of Keep On Your Feet.

About the Author

Jeremy Ousey is the owner at Swansea's podiatry clinic: Keep On Your Feet. All the information found on this page was written by him (there's no AI or Chat-GPT here!), and has been carefully chosen to provide you with the information that you need to know about the condition. Jeremy has a Bachelor of Science in Podiatry, with honours, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Podiatric Sports Medicine, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Medical Ultrasound, and two Master's of Science degrees in the Theory of Podiatric Surgery, and Sports & Exercise Medicine. If you would like to know more about Jeremy, please click here.

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