Fungal Nail Infections - What Happens
Fungal infections are classified by where they begin and what they affect.
Most fungal nail infections affect the skin under the nail (nail bed) and the
nail itself (nail plate).
Fungal nail infections typically get worse, or 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 get worse 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 easier to treat than others. The most
common type, distal subungual onychomycosis, can be a lifelong infection and
hard to treat. Another type, white superficial onychomycosis, is easy to treat. Even after treatment, your nails may still 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% get another
infection in the next year.1
Bacterial infection can be 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.