Foot Clinic Milton & Cambridge : What causes fungal nails and how can they be treated?

Fungal nails, also known as onychomycosis is caused by an infection of the nails by a fungus.   Fungi can live on nails, dead tissues of the hair, and oouter skin layers. Fungal nails are more common in adults and in most cases follow fungal infections of the skin.  Toenails are more commonly affected then fingernails.

There are a number of ways one can contract a fungal nail infection.  The fungi that cause infection thrive in moist, dark environments.  These include public showers, swimming pools, gyms, and other areas where people sweat a lot.  Those who use these facilities regularly are at a higher risk of contracting the fungi.  Other things that can increase the risk of a fungal infection include getting manicures and pedicures where the tools used are not sterilized correctly, having moist skin for a long time, wearing closed-toe footwear, compromised immune system, and having a nail deformity or nail disease.

There are a number of changes that occur to the nails once infected by fungi.  These changes include discolouration of the nail (yellowish, brownish, and sometimes black), brittleness, thickening of the nail, crumbling of the outside edges of the nail, odour, debris trapped under the nail, and lifting up or loosening of the nail.  The nail(s) can become very hard to cut and in come cases can start to cause pain.

Once a fungal nail is diagnosed, the appropriate treatment option can be advised.  There are a number of topical anti-fungals that are available.  Some of these are prescription strength and some may be available over-the-counter.  Oral anti-fungals are also available, however they pose a higher risk and must be discussed with your health care professional before starting.  Fungal nails can take anywhere from a few months to a year to completely clear out.

For more information or to arrange an assessment, contact Ontario Foot & Orthotics at one of our two locations: 519-623-3000 in Cambridge or 905-878-6479 in Milton. You can also visit us at