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Fungal nail infections are a relatively simple condition to treat if you catch them early enough, but they can sometimes take a long time to get better.

Now, let’s take a look at how to get rid of a fungal nail infection.

How is a fungal nail infection treated?

Treatment for fungal nail infections is usually an oral medication or a topical treatment.

Oral antifungal medication

Antifungal tablets may be recommended after diagnosis and if deemed appropriate by the doctor. They tend to be more effective at treating a fungal nail infection compared to creams or topical treatments, although they may not be suited to everyone. The medication will also clear up any other fungal skin infections, such as athlete’s foot.

The tablets are usually taken once or twice a day and for a period of several months. The most common tablets that are prescribed include:

  • Terbinafine
  • Itraconazole

It is important to complete the full course of oral antifungal medication, even if the symptoms have disappeared, as this will help to make sure that the infection completely clears up. It will also reduce the likelihood of the infection returning.

Some people may experience minor side effects when taking oral antifungal medication. The possible side effects include:

If you are concerned about, or have experienced, any side effects after taking oral antifungal medication in the past, you should mention this to the doctor. They may decide that a topical antifungal treatment may be a more suitable treatment.

Antifungal nail paint

If, for some reason the tablets are not suitable for you, or the infection is not too severe, antifungal nail paint may be prescribed by our doctors instead. Again, like the tablets, you should complete the full course of treatment, even after symptoms have disappeared, to help ensure the infection does not recur.

These can be applied directly onto the nail, for a period of several months, or sometime for up to a year depending on the type of infection and location.

Nail softening kits

Nail softening kits are also sometimes prescribed. With these, a paste softens the infected portions of the nail, which are then later scraped away with a scraping tool. The paste contains 40% urea and the treatment usually takes place over several weeks. Our doctors will tell you how to do this or refer you to a specialist if they think this is the best option for you.

If this is recommended, you will need to:

  • Wash and dry the affected areas
  • Apply the paste to the infected area
  • Place a plaster over the nail and leave it in place for 24 hours
  • Remove the plaster and wash the paste away
  • Scrape away the softened area of the nail
  • Repeat daily for two to three weeks

After this course of treatment, a doctor may recommend that you use an antifungal nail paint to reduce the risk of re-infection, while new healthy nail grows.

Nail removal

If your fungal nail infection is very severe, or if other treatment options have not worked, your nail may need to be removed under local anaesthetic. You will also need to take antifungal medication.

Laser treatment

Laser treatment is relatively new, so the long-term impact are not yet understood. This treatment is only available privately.

Not all treatments completely rid your body of the fungus, so there is a proportion of people (roughly half) who will have repeated cases of fungal nail infections.

What happens if fungal nail infections are left untreated?

At first, a fungal nail infection may cause no pain or discomfort. However, if the infected nail is left untreated, it could lead to problems in the future. The fungal infection may also spread to the skin that surrounds the toenail or fingernail. It is possible that this may then lead to a bacterial infection and in rare cases, this can result in cellulitis.

After treatment, the old infected parts of the nail will grow out over time and you should be able to see new healthy nail growth at the base of the nail. It may take up to 18 months for the nail’s appearance to return to normal, after the treatment has finished.

If you have seen the signs of a fungal nail infection, then you should contact a doctor and begin treatment in order to avoid future complications.