Fungal nails are contagious, but the infection usually isn’t passed directly from one person to another. Passing on the infection directly requires prolonged physical contact between nails, and people usually don’t touch toenails for extended periods of time. Typically, people pick up fungal nail infections from warm, moist places where fungi can thrive, such as locker rooms, public showers, and towels.
When a person does develop a fungal nail infection, it’s often difficult to precisely identify the source of the infection. Fungi are extremely common, and many people are regularly exposed to potential sources where they can contract a fungus.
Depending on the severity of the infection, there are a few ways to treat fungal nails. Medications, including oral antifungal medicines, medicated nail polish, and medicated nail cream are usually the first choice of treatment, as they’re easy to administer and non-invasive. When medication alone doesn’t eliminate an infection, laser or light therapy may be able to remove the infection.
In the most severe cases, infected nails may need to be surgically removed. A new nail will usually grow back after surgery, but it can take a while for a new nail to grow in. To avoid surgery, patients should have fungal nails treated promptly before they become severely infected.
A fungal nail appointment is a relatively short doctor's appointment. Unless a treatment or surgery has already been scheduled, the appointment usually only involves taking a patient’s basic medical information, a conversation with a doctor and a physical exam of the infected toe or toes. All of this can be completed quickly, and a treatment plan can be selected at the end of the appointment.
Even the treatments and surgeries used to treat fungal nails are relatively short. Although they may take longer than a standard doctor’s appointment, most procedures are done as outpatient procedures, and patients are welcome to go home afterward.