Whether to treat a fungal nail infection is up to you. For example, you may decide not to treat a fungal nail infection if your nail is discolored or damaged but not painful.
Treatment for a fungal nail infection includes using medicines and possibly removing the affected nail.
Treatment often starts with antifungal medicines. A cream, gel, or nail polish may be used. You can buy some of these medicines yourself, but you'll need a prescription for others.
- Antifungal creams, gels, and nail polish may be used for mild-to-moderate infections and to help prevent an infection from returning. They may also prevent athlete's foot from spreading to the nails. These medicines may not work as well as oral medicines.
- Antifungal pills (oral medicine) are typically used for moderate-to-severe or hard-to-treat fungal nail infections. They offer the best chance of a cure.
- Removal of an infected nail is used for severe or recurring fungal nail infections. Nail removal is rarely needed. It can be done without surgery or with surgery.
What to think about
Some people are not sure whether they want to use antifungal pills because of the side effects.
If you have a condition such as diabetes that might complicate a minor foot injury or infection, your doctor may suggest treating a fungal nail infection, even if it doesn't bother you.
Combining nail removal with antifungal creams or pills is likely to be more effective than using one of these treatments alone.
Even after treatment, your nails may still look irregular in shape and appearance. It can take a year or longer before they return to normal.
Fungal nail infections often come back.