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Nail fungus is a common condition that tends to start out as a white or yellow spot under the tip of your fingernail or toenail. As the fungal infection progresses, it may cause your nail to discolor, thicken and crumble at the edge. It can affect multiple nails but usually won’t spread to all of them. If your condition is mild and isn’t bothering you, treatment may not be needed.


The condition is usually caused by a dermatophyte fungus. Fungi live in warm, moist environments, including swimming pools and showers. They can also invade your skin through minor cuts or through a small separation between your nail and nail bed. Nail fungus occurs more frequently in toenails because they’re often confined in your shoes’ dark and warm environment. You also have less blood flow to your toes than to your fingers, which makes it more difficult for the body’s immune system to detect and stop infection.


You may have nail fungus if one or more of your nails are:

  • Thickened
  • Brittle, crumbly or ragged
  • Distorted in shape
  • Dull, with no shine
  • A dark color


While nail fungus can be embarrassing, it is not usually considered a health threat. You should see a doctor if your nail has lifted or is painful or if you have diabetes or another immune-deficient condition.


There are a number of treatments to relieve the symptoms of nail fungus, such as:

  • Oral antifungal drugs
  • Medicated nail polish
  • Medicated nail cream
  • Nail removal
  • Laser and light-based therapies


It is important to keep in mind, however, that treatment can be a lengthy process (sometimes up to one year) due to the slow rate of toenail growth. And it is common for the fungus to return. To prevent nail fungus from occurring or recurring make sure to:

  • Keep your nails short and dry
  • Wear socks that wick away sweat
  • Use an antifungal spray or powder
  • Don’t trim or pick at the skin around your nails
  • Don’t go barefoot in public places
  • Choose a reputable nail salon
  • Give up nail polish and artificial nails
  • Wash your hands after touching an infected nail


Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.


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