Toenail fungus is a widespread fungal infection that affects the toenails. Less commonly, nail fungus infects the fingernails. Nail fungus is also called onychomycosis. Toenail fungus happens when fungi get between the toenail and the toenail bed (tissue right underneath the toenail). The nail lifts away from the bed, and debris collects underneath it. The toenail may become thickened, yellow or brown, brittle, flaky, or ragged.
There are many over-the-counter treatments available for toenail fungus. However, these can be costly and not effective in all cases. For severe or persistent infections, oral antifungal medication may be necessary.
Toenail fungus is more common in adults than children. It occurs more often in men than women and is more common in older people than younger people. People who have diabetes or circulation problems are also at increased risk of developing toenail fungus as are people with weakened immune systems. Finally, people who wear closed shoes (such as athletes) are at an increased risk of developing toenail fungus because the environment inside shoes provides a good place for fungi to grow.
Toenail fungus is usually spread by direct contact with someone who has the infection. However, it can also be spread by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces, such as shower floors, locker room floors, or nail salon tools. Wearing shoes that someone else has worn can also lead to the spread of toenail fungus.
While there are some home remedies available that may help mild cases of toe fungus, some home remedies may make the infection worse.