Fungal nail infections will not get better without treatment. Treating a fungal nail infection can take a long time, and it is important to say that treatment is only necessary if the person is bothered by the look or feel of the nail. Here Healthwords's pharmacists walk you through the options available.
A fungal nail infection can also infect the skin (or vice versa), so often goes hand-in-hand (pardon the pun) with athlete’s foot, a fungal infection between toes and on the soles of the feet.
If this is the case, you should get this treated at the same time as your nails. Your pharmacist can help in the first instance, suggesting an antifungal nail cream or lacquer, and a nail softening cream. Be warned, it’s a long game and aims to remove the infected nail or halt the spread of infection until it grows out.
Athlete’s foot, and to a lesser extent fungal nail infection – can spread by sharing towels, bed linen, shoes and nail clippers or scissors. You should wear shoes or sandals in communal areas such as changing rooms, especially if the floors are warm and moist.
Keep feet well-aired and avoid shoes that make them feel hot and sweaty. Try to keep your nails as short as possible.
There are specific treatments for fungal nail infections that are available at the pharmacy in the form of fungal nail lacquers. These come in various types from applying once a week or applying daily for the first month. Either way, treatment time is 6 - 12 months and commonly won't work without other treatment methods alongside. Nail lacquers have the best chance of working if they are started at a very early stage.
In the UK, there are several over-the-counter nail creams and lacquer products available for the treatment of fungal nail infections, also known as onychomycosis. These products are designed to help combat fungal growth in the nails and improve their appearance. Here are some common types of over-the-counter treatments:
These creams typically contain antifungal agents such as clotrimazole, miconazole, or terbinafine. They are applied directly to the affected nails and surrounding skin. Antifungal creams work by inhibiting the growth of fungus and may help to reduce symptoms such as nail discolouration, thickening, and brittleness. It's important to follow the instructions provided with the cream and apply it consistently for the recommended duration.
Nail lacquers are applied similarly to nail polish and contain antifungal ingredients such as ciclopirox or amorolfine (Curanail). These products form a protective barrier over the nail surface, allowing the antifungal agent to penetrate the nail and target the underlying fungal infection. Antifungal nail lacquers are typically applied once or twice a week and may require several months of treatment for optimal results.
Some over-the-counter products may combine antifungal agents with other ingredients such as urea or keratolytics, which help to soften and thin the nail, making it easier for the antifungal medication to penetrate. Combination therapy products may offer enhanced efficacy compared to standalone antifungal treatments.
In addition to antifungal creams and lacquers, nail softening solutions containing ingredients like urea or salicylic acid may be used to help soften and thin thickened or hardened nails caused by fungal infection. These solutions can make it easier to trim and manage affected nails, improving overall nail health.
If the base of the nail bed (known as the lunula) is affected, or if you have more than a few fingers and toes affected, it may be worth speaking to your doctor for prescription based treatments with a course of antifungal tablets for a few months instead.
Your doctor will likely ask you to take nail clippings to confirm the diagnosis before considering you for anti-fungal tablets. Again, treatment is a long game – at least 3 to 6 months, and you may need to repeat some blood tests to check on your liver along the way.
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