Fungal Nail Infections

Fungal nail infections that leave the nail discoloured, flaky and deformed are one of the most common problems we see here at Masterton Foot Clinic. Research has shown that fungal nail infections affect up to 23% of people, and are the cause of 50% of all nail diseases, with the toes being affected in 4 out of 5 people. While some fungal nail infections can cause the nail to become thick and uncomfortable, especially when wearing narrow shoes, for many it affects their self-esteem and confidence in wearing open-toed shoes or showing their feet at the beach.


Why do fungal nail infections start?


Medically referred to as onychomycosis, fungal nail infections start when a fungal spore comes in contact with the nail and penetrates it. From here, the infection gradually grows and spreads through the nail, feeding on the keratin that nails are made of. 


Not everyone that comes in contact with fungal spores will get an active infection, and for some, their bodies may clear the infection before it has a chance to produce changes to the nail. If your nail is weakened like from trauma, if you have poor circulation, or if your immune system isn’t at 100%, you may be more susceptible to an infection taking hold.


The most common places to ‘pick up’ the spores are from public swimming pools, changing rooms, nail salons and the like. This is because fungus thrives in warm and moist environments, making it easier to spread and come in contact with as you don’t know if the person in the shower before you had a fungal infection or not. Once the infection starts, wearing enclosed footwear, sweaty socks and wet feet will encourage it to grow quickly.


Fungal nail infections can and do spread through families – so if your partner has a fungal nail infection, there’s a good chance that you may develop it too over time.


How do I know if it’s a fungal nail infection or something else?


Fungal infections are common, and can usually be detected by the changes to the appearance of the nail that tendon to worsen over time – and even spread to the other toes. Your nails can become:

  • Discoloured – yellow/white/brown
  • Thick
  • Flaky
  • Brittle with a moth-eaten appearance
  • Odorous 
  • Spotted or streaked


Your nails may also change shape, with the nail starting to lift away from the base of the nail.


When it’s not a fungal nail infection, the cause of the change in appearance to your nail may be from psoriasis, onychogryphosis (causing nail thickening and distorting the shape of the nail), lichen planus, carcinomas, melanomas – as well as simple injury to the nail like from kicking the table or dropping something on the toe.


Here at Masterton Foot Clinic, we don’t believe in guesswork when it comes to fungal nail infections. Before starting your anti-fungal nail treatment, we perform a quick test in the laboratory to confirm the presence of nail fungus. This test takes approximately five minutes, and ensures that you don’t waste time and money on anti-fungal treatments for the wrong condition.


Treating fungal nail infections


Treating fungal nail infections can be a lengthy, frustrating and costly process. Standard treatments like creams and lacquers from the pharmacy have shown a poor success rate in studies – ranging from between just 5.5% and 8.5%. Prescription oral medications have a higher success rate of between 14% to 55%, but carry risks of adverse effects and are unsuitable for many patients, as determined by their GP.


After seeing patients struggle for years with no real reliable solution, we’re pleased to say that we were the first in New Zealand to pioneer the world’s leading anti-fungal treatment – the Lunula cold laser. 


Cold laser has no side effects, no pain, is safe, simple, and effective. It has clinically proven success rates of between 83% and 97% after four treatments. We improve this by providing everything you need to reduce the risk of reinfection at home, including being just a phone call away from our highly-skilled team that specialises in the cold laser treatment of fungal nails.


We’ve shared everything you need to know about the Lunula laser here.