Fungal Infections

Time to read 2 min

Fungi are microscopic organisms that live in warm, moist environments. Some fungi have beneficial uses; others can cause illness and infection.

Fungal infections most commonly occur on your nails, especially the toenails; on your feet, especially between the toes (athlete’s foot); and in the groin area in men (jock itch).


  • Nail infection. Infected nails may be thickened, brittle, crumbly or ragged, and distorted in shape. They may be yellowish or dull in color or darkened from debris building up under the nail. Sometimes the infected nail separates from the nail bed.
  • Athlete’s foot. The athlete’s foot generally causes a scaly, itchy rash that may also sting or burn.
  • Jock itch typically produces an itchy, red rash that’s often ring-shaped.

Treatment for a fungal infection depends on its location and severity.

Nail infections. Treatment options include:

  • Oral antifungal drugs, which help a new nail grow free of infection. However, it may take four months or longer for the medication to work. Success seems to improve when combining oral and topical antifungal therapies.
  • Medicated nail polish, You paint an antifungal nail polish called ciclopirox (Penlac) on your infected nails and surrounding skin once daily. After seven days, you wipe the piled-on layers clean and begin fresh applications. You may need to use the polish daily for a year.
  • Medicated nail cream. The cream is rubbed into your infected nails after soaking them. These creams may work better if you first thin the nails so that the medications get through the hard nail surface.
  • Nail removal. If your nail infection is severe or extremely painful, your doctor may suggest removing your nail. A new nail will usually grow in its place, but it may take up to a year to grow back.

Athlete’s foot
If your athlete’s foot is mild, an over-the-counter antifungal ointment, lotion, powder or spray may be effective. If the rash doesn’t improve, you may need a prescription-strength medication. Severe infections may require oral antifungal medication.

Jock itch
For a mild case of jock itch, use an over-the-counter antifungal ointment, lotion, powder, or spray. If the jock itch is severe or doesn’t respond to over-the-counter products, a prescription-strength cream or ointment, or even antifungal pills, may be necessary.

To reduce jock itch, dry your genital area and inner thighs thoroughly after showering or exercising. Use powder around your groin area to prevent excess moisture. If you sweat a lot, change your underwear often. Make sure your athletic supporter fits correctly.

To prevent toenail infection and athlete’s foot, keep your feet dry, especially between your toes. Wear well-ventilated shoes and change your socks often. In public showers or pools, wear waterproof sandals.

Nail fungus can cause the nail to become thick or ragged and appear yellow, brown, or black.


Excerpt From: The Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Clinic A to Z Health Guide”.

Tests to consider

Supplements to consider