Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: Toenail fungal infections

On call

Toenail fungal infections

Q. I have two really ugly toenails. I assume I have a fungus. What can I do about it?

A. Fungal infections of nails are unsightly, but not serious. The nail is thickened, irregular, and discolored, but the infection never spreads to other parts of the body. Toenails are infected much more often than fingernails, which is fortunate since toenails are much less visible.

Doctors usually diagnose fungal nail infections (technically called onychomycosis) simply by looking at the nail. But psoriasis can look similar, even in people who do not have the skin inflammation that's characteristic of psoriasis. If there is any doubt about the diagnosis, doctors can scrape the nail to obtain a specimen for culture or examination under a microscope.

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