Nail Infections

Our doctors can support you if you think you may have a nail Infection. Book your online GP appointment now and see a doctor in minutes.

Alternatively you can refer yourself to a specialist Doctor without seeing a GP first.

Written by Medical Professional

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What is a fungal nail infection?

Fungal nail infections are common and typically aren’t too severe but can take a while to treat. They usually affect your toenails, but you can get them on your fingernails, too. 


Nail infections can sometimes start at the nail’s edge and often spread to the middle of the nail, making the nail appear discoloured, resulting in some parts of the nail becoming thicker.


The nail becomes brittle and pieces can break off. Sometimes the whole nail lifts off. This can cause pain and swelling in the skin around the nail.

Its recommended that if you have diabetes, you should see a foot specialist (podiatrist) because foot injuries or infections can lead to diabetes complications if left untreated.

How do you get a fungal nail infection?

Anyone can get a fungal nail infection, but some people are more likely to get one than others. This includes older adults and people who suffer from: 


  • A nail injury or nail surgery
  • Diabetes
  • A weak immune system
  • Blood circulation problems
  • Athlete’s foot (ringworm on the foot)


Fungal nail infections are caused by different types of fungi (yeasts or moulds) that live in the environment. These germs can enter the nail through small cracks in your nail or the surrounding skin which can cause an infection.

When to see a doctor?


If you notice that your nail has turned black or brown, it suddenly starts to hurt or if it pulls away from the nail bed, you should book an appointment with your doctor as nail infections can get worse over time. 


This is also the case if you have diabetes and notice that the look of your toenails have changed, even a little, to prevent the issue from getting worse. 


Additionally, if you have tried at-home treatments or over-the-counter medications and they haven’t worked, it’s also recommended that you see your doctor or podiatrist (foot doctor). 

Find out more about getting an online GP appointment for nail infections.

How to get rid of fungal nail infection?

Your doctor will most likely be able to tell that you have a nail infection by looking at your toes or fingers. They may have to do some tests to be sure which could include taking a sample of your nails to see if they contain fungus. 


Your treatment will usually begin with your dermatologist trimming the infected nail(s) then cutting back each infected nail to where it attaches to your toe or finger. Your doctor may also scrape away debris from under your nail to help get rid of some of the fungus. 


There are several home remedies that you can try at home to help clear the infection:


  • Baking soda
  • Menthol products
  • Vinegar
  • Mouthwash
  • Garlic
  • Snakeroot extract


Medicated creams/topical treatments


If you have a mild nail infection, your doctor may give you a topical treatment to apply to the nail to get rid of it. This treatment will help to keep new fungus from appearing whilst the nails grow out. Fingernails usually take four to six months to grow out. Toenails usually take longer, around 12 to 18 months. Some treatments need to be applied daily whilst others are applied once a week. You should follow the advice given by your doctor for the best results. 


Oral medication  


If you need a stronger treatment, you may be prescribed antifungal tablets which have a higher cure rate than topical creams and work faster than topical creams. It usually takes around three months of treatment to cure a nail infection. You may have to take regular blood tests and be monitored regularly because of the possible side effects of taking the antifungal tablets.


Combination therapy


Your doctor might also recommend for you to use a combination of antifungal tablets and topical creams as they can be more effective at clearing the nail fungus than using either treatment alone. 


Nail removal


If your doctor finds that you have a severe nail infection or the above treatments haven’t worked for you, they may recommend removing the nail(s) to get rid of the infection. Techniques such as nonsurgical nail removal where a chemical is applied to the nail to remove it or surgical nail removal may be used as alternative options. The nail can grow back after each of these procedures but if the infection fails to clear after treatment, your doctor may treat the nail in a way that stops it from growing back.

Online GP appointments for nail infections

If you are worried you may have a nail infection, you can book a same-day online GP appointment at Medicspot. Consultations are by video link at a time and place that suits you. Our GPs will ask about your age, general health, lifestyle, any medications you are taking, and your symptoms. They can then recommend further tests or prescribe any necessary treatment. 

Can a pharmacist help with nail infections?

If your nails are bothering you or they become painful and you think it could be a sign of a nail infection, you can seek advice from your local pharmacist. They’ll be able to recommend over-the-counter medicines.


NHS: Nail Infections (Accessed 11 August 2022)


CDC: Fungal Nail Infections (Accessed 11 August 2022)


AAD (Accessed 11 August 2022)

Medical News Today (Accessed 11 August 2022)

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