The Independent Pharmacy

Fungal Nail Infection - Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Donald Grant
Dr Donald GrantMB ChB DRCOG MRCGP Dip.orth.medGP & Clinical Advisor

Reviewed on 31 Mar 2023

Fungal nail infections aren’t fun, and they can be embarrassing for the sufferer too. Fungal infections can affect any part of the body, but they are particularly common in toenails (and sometimes fingernails).

The good news is that you’re not alone — fungal nail infections are pretty common and they are treatable. However, they tend to develop subtly over time and can be stubborn when it comes to disappearing. Knowing what to look for when it comes to fungal infections can give you a headstart in starting treatment and preventing your condition from worsening.

On this page, we’ll be discussing fungal nail infections in depth: covering symptoms, causes and treatments.

What is a fungal nail infection and what causes it?

Fungal nail infection is an infection that occurs due to the overgrowth of fungi in, on or underneath the nail.

Some fungal growth is perfectly normal in and around the body; the issue arises when fungi begin to overgrow for various reasons and infect the hard material (keratin) that makes up the nail.

This leads to Onychomycosis — the medical term for a fungal nail infection.

Fungal nail infections are caused by dermatophyte fungi; the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot (a fungal skin infection).

One of the main causes of fungal nail infection is athlete’s foot spreading — the fungal infection is contagious and can spread from the skin on your feet and gaps in between your toes to your toenails.

Fungal nail infection symptoms: how to spot it

You can check for yourself whether you’ve got Onychomycosis — there are a number of symptoms that will help you to identify a fungal nail infection.

Remember, these types of infections normally affect the toenails, but can also affect fingernails, so don’t discount your fingers too.

Here are some symptoms that are indicative of a fungal nail infection:

  • Thickening of the nail
  • Discolouration of the nail (normally white, yellow or brown)
  • The nail may become distorted in shape
  • Ridges on the nail
  • The nail becomes brittle and crumbly (pieces may break off)
  • The skin around nail can become inflamed, patchy or scaly
  • Discomfort around the area (pain is very unusual)

The easiest way to recognise a fungal infection is when the nail becomes thick or discoloured. Other symptoms such as the nail becoming brittle and crumbly tend to occur as the infection progresses and symptoms develop.

If you’re unsure whether you have a fungal nail infection or not, then it is best to speak to your doctor or start a free consultation with The Independent Pharmacy. Visit our buy Amorolfine 5% Nail Lacquer page (a fungal nail infection treatment) to begin your consultation and you could potentially receive your treatment delivered to your door the next day.

Amorolfine 5% Nail Lacquer
Amorolfine 5% Nail Lacquer
View Treatment

Are fungal nail infections contagious?

Fungal nail infections are contagious. This means that you can catch an infection from someone else.

Coming into contact with other people who have a fungal infection (or objects or places which are contaminated with fungal spores) means that you are susceptible to the infection spreading to you.

This can happen in a number of different ways:

  • If you are using a communal bathing or shower facility, such as a gym or swimming pool. If many people are walking around barefoot, your chances of picking up a fungal infection are much higher. These areas are usually warm and damp, making them the perfect breeding ground for fungi.
  • Going to a salon to get a manicure or pedicure: if you visit a salon that doesn’t sterilise their equipment properly. Fungal infections can be spread on nail scissors, emery boards and clippers, so always make sure the salon you visit is trustworthy and has a high hygiene rating.
  • Sharing towels, socks or shoes can also pass fungal infections from person to person, as the fabric can contain fungal spores that will spread.

Openings in the skin around your nails can leave you more open to infections as they provide germs with access to your skin and nails. So if you bite or pick your nails and skin, or have damaged nails, it might be time to stop and think about how you can protect them from infection.

Best fungal nail infection treatments

There are a few different ways to treat fungal nail infections, including some medical treatments and natural remedies.

The two main forms of medical treatment for fungal nail infections are nail paints and tablets.

Antifungal nail paints like Amorolfine (or branded Curanail or Loceryl) are specially formulated to tackle Onychomycosis by stopping the growth of the fungi responsible for the infection. This nail paint can be applied to both fingers and toenails over long periods of time to ensure that the infection goes.

Antifungal tablets can treat fungal nail infections, but they have to be prescribed by a GP or nurse. The most commonly prescribed antifungal tablets are Terbinafine.

Nail-softening creams are also available to treat fungal nail infections. These involve a paste that softens the infected parts of the nail, which can then be removed with a scraping device. Not for the faint-hearted.

Some people also try home remedies such as vinegar foot soaks to get rid of fungal nail infections. Although these are inexpensive, they tend to only work on milder forms of infection. We would recommend going with a clinically-proven fungal nail treatment.

Whichever treatment you choose, isn’t always guaranteed to get rid of the fungal infection completely, and the infection may return.

Preventative measures

There are a number of steps you can take to prevent fungal nail infections from happening in the first place. These are all easy lifestyle changes or habits and should help you to tackle toenail infections before they even begin.

One of the most basic measures you can take is to keep your feet clean and dry. This means showering regularly and making sure that you dry your feet thoroughly (paying extra attention to your toes and the gaps between your toes).

Change your socks every day, and try to stick to moisture-wicking fabrics such as wool, nylon and polypropylene.

Don’t wear shoes that aren’t breathable and make your feet hot and sweaty. This heat and moisture provide the perfect conditions for fungal growth to get out of control and turn into an infection. Similarly, replace old footwear which could potentially be carrying fungal spores.

As we have also established, fungal nail infections are contagious. As a result, you should also avoid sharing things like shoes and towels with others, as this will help the bacteria to spread from person to person. Even nail clippers and scissors can spread the infection, so it’s worth buying your own nail care set (and going to a reputable salon if you’re getting a manicure or a pedicure).

If you go to the gym, swimming pool or anywhere public where you’re likely to encounter lots of barefoot people, you might want to consider bringing along flip-flops to avoid bringing home a fungal nail infection.

And if you’ve already got a fungal nail infection, washing your hands well after touching an infected nail should stop the infection from spreading to other nails or other parts of your body.


Fungal nail infections are very common, but there are many easy preventative measures you can take. There are also a variety of treatments that will help you to successfully tackle fungal infections.

If you think you may have a fungal nail infection, check our list of symptoms. You can also buy Amorolfine 5% Nail Lacquer from The Independent Pharmacy — start your free online consultation today and receive your order tomorrow.


Need something else?

We stock 1045 treatments for 90 conditions

Or browse all treatments or conditions

A customer at the pharmacist looking for medication