Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Fungal Nail Infections

Fungal Nail Infections

Condition Basics

What is a fungal nail infection?

A fungal nail infection is an infection that occurs when a fungus attacks your fingernail, toenail, or nail bed. Fungi can attack your nails through small cuts in the skin around the nail or through the opening between the nail and nail bed. If you're healthy, the infection probably won't cause serious problems.

What causes it?

Fungal nail infections can be caused by yeasts, molds, and other kinds of fungus.

Fungi grow best in warm, moist places. They can spread from person to person. You can get a fungal nail infection from walking barefoot in public showers or pools or by sharing personal items, such as towels and nail clippers. If you have athlete's foot, the fungus can spread from your skin to your nails.

You can have fungi on your skin without getting a nail infection. If you are susceptible to fungal infections, they tend to return. They can come back even after successful treatment and especially if you don't do something to prevent them.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms often develop slowly over time. A nail with a fungal infection may:

  • Turn yellow, white, or brown.
  • Get thicker.
  • Crumble or split and may separate from the skin.

A fungal nail infection usually isn't painful. But over time, you may be uncomfortable or even have pain when you wear shoes, walk, or stand for a long time. The fungus could also spread to other nails or your skin.

How is it diagnosed?

To diagnose a fungal nail infection, your doctor will:

  • Look at the skin and nails on your hands and feet.
  • Ask about your medical history. This includes any previous symptoms of nail damage or fungal nail infections.

The doctor may take a sample of skin and nail fragments from under the infected nail or a sample of the nail itself. Tests to examine the samples include:

  • KOH preparation, to find out if the problem is caused by a fungus.
  • Other lab tests, such as a fungal culture, may be done to find which type of fungus you have.

If the tests don't show fungi but your doctor still thinks that you have a fungal infection, a nail biopsy may be needed.

How is a fungal nail infection treated?

It may take time to treat a nail infection. You may need to try several treatments to find one that helps. Even when a treatment works, the nail can get infected again.

Treatment often starts with antifungal medicine.

  • You can try an over-the-counter medicine that comes in a cream, lotion, or nail polish.
  • Your doctor can also prescribe a stronger antifungal medicine that you apply to your nail.
  • Antifungal pills give the best chance of curing a severe nail infection. But they may cost a lot. And they can have serious side effects. You will need to see your doctor for regular testing if you take these pills.
  • If you have a severe nail infection or the infection keeps coming back, your doctor may remove the infected nail.

If you have diabetes or a weak immune system, your doctor may suggest treating the infection, even if it doesn't bother you.

How can you care for the infection?

For a mild fungal nail infection, try an antifungal cream, gel, or polish that you put on your nail. To stop the infection from coming back, keep your nails clean and dry. Change socks often. Don't go barefoot in public places. And try not to share personal things like towels and nail clippers.

How can you avoid fungal nail infections?

There are things you can do to avoid getting a fungal nail infection or having it come back.

  • Before bed, wash and dry your feet carefully.

    Applying a topical antifungal medicine may help prevent repeat infections.

  • Keep your feet and hands dry.

    Dry skin and nails are less likely to get infected. Put powder on your dry feet or hands after you take a shower or bath.

  • Wear sandals or roomy shoes made of materials that allow moisture to escape.

    Let your shoes air out for at least 24 hours before you wear them again.

  • Wear socks.

    Change them if your feet get damp or sweaty.

  • Wear shower sandals in wet public areas, such as locker rooms or showers.

    Let them dry between uses.

  • Do not share nail files or clippers, socks, towels, or other personal items.
  • Avoid injuring your nail.

    Cutting nails too short is a common cause of nail injury.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Ringworm of the Scalp or Beard Ingrown Toenail Ringworm of the Skin Nail Problems and Injuries Athlete's Foot

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details