Our toenails are subject to the constant presence of bacteria and fungi (picture the environment inside a shoe).

Fungal toenails, also known as onychomycosis is one of the most common conditions we see as podiatrists.

It is a slow growing fungus that is commonly the same fungus that causes tinea.

Fungal infections usually occur underneath the nail and begin at the end of the nail (where it gets trimmed) and are caused by a spreading of a fungus under the nail plate and into the nail bed. Fungi grow in the warm, moist environment inside socks and shoes. Less often, an infection can appear as a white, powdery discoloration on top of the nail.


The most common symptoms of with toenail fungal infections include:

  • Discoloration beneath the nail, usually brown, white, or yellow
  • Thickening of the nail
  • An increase in white debris beneath the nail which is keratin, a protein that gives form to skin and nails


Toenail fungus is often picked up in public gyms, showers, and swimming pools as fungal organisms thrive in these warm, damp environments. The fungal infection can often spread from skin to the nails.

Factors that can lead to developing Fungal Nail include:

Trauma, allowing entry into the nail or nail bed

Abnormal PH level of the skin

Not drying off feet thoroughly after exercise or bathing Wearing tight enclosed shoes that don’t allow feet to breathe Diabetics and elderly with compromised immune systems


It is recommended you see your podiatrist before the toenail fungus spreads. Treatments include prescribed oral antifungals, topical antifungal lacquers, debridement and laser. Podiatrists have tools to reduce the thickness of the fungal nail so that topical medication can be more easily absorbed, thus providing more comfort to the patient.


The information in this resource is general in nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subject matter covered. It is not a substitute for medical advice and you should always consult a trained professional practising in the area of medicine in relation to any injury or condition. You use or rely on information in this resource at your own risk and no party involved in the production of this resource accepts any responsibility for the information contained within it or your use of that information.