How to Treat Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus is one of those potentially embarrassing medical conditions that no one seems to want to discuss. But it's also one of the more common foot ailments. Learn how it's contracted, how to prevent it, and how to get rid of it.

Sanaz Majd, MD
5-minute read
Episode #151

Toenail fungus, it’s one of those potentially embarrassing medical conditions that no one seems to want to discuss at the dinner table (except for us doctors - these things don’t phase us in the least).  It’s up there with anal itching, dandruff, vaginal discharge, and athlete’s foot (all topics I've previously covered).  Who would have thought that my anal itching episode would be one of the most popular?  Go figure!  So I thought I’d tackle something that is even more common than anal itching – toenail fungus.>

How Do You Get Toenail Fungus?

Up to 25% of people “suffer” (and I use that word loosely) from this potentially unattractive condition.  The word “fungus” doesn’t even sound pretty.  So you can bet that your toenail is not going to look pretty either when infested with fungus.  For those of you with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), you may want to stop listening/reading at this point.  For the rest of you, you should know that fungus is really everywhere. It's like bacteria in that we all having a certain amount of fungus living on our skin and on household objects, floors, showers, etc.  That’s just the way it is. 

See also: Virus, Germ, or Bacteria?


There are certain times, however, that fungus can actually take over and set up a bigger shop on your skin and nails.  And for those of you who walk barefoot and/or sweat, fungus can certainly wreak havoc on your toenails.  Also, toenail fungus is more common in diabetics because fungus thrives on sugar.  So if you have diabetes, please tackle your blood sugars and get them under great control so you don’t end up feeding the beast.

Symptoms of Toenail Fungus

Fortunately for patients with toenail fungus, it's not something that makes them (or their doctors) lose sleep.  It’s typically considered a cosmetic condition, one that's not going to kill you.  It's certainly not too pretty to look at, but not fatal. 

Toenail fungus most commonly affects the big toe, but it can also spread its territory to nearby toenails in some.  The nail often becomes yellow, thickened, brittle, deformed, and even appear as though it’s “lifting” off of the flesh of the toe.  Some patients with toenail fungus also suffer from athlete’s foot, a topic I have covered in the past – these two are often siblings and go hand-in-hand.

Rarely, when the toenail is super deformed, it can become ingrown and painful. 

So what can you do to treat toenail fungus?


Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD

Dr. Sanaz Majd is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who graduated from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Her special interests are women's health and patient education.