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  • Writer's pictureMy Family Podiatry

Why Is My Nail Discoloured?

Updated: Jul 9, 2023

Fungal Nail Infections

One possible cause of nail discolouration is a nail fungus. Most typically caused by an organism called a dermatophyte, fungal nail infections can result in significant nail deformity and discomfort. Fungal nails can be quite infectious and spread to other toes or even to other members of the household.

A toe with a toenail showing a fungal infection

Risk Factors for Developing Fungal Nail Infections

Fungal nails are very common and infections can be completely by chance. These types of infections have absolutely nothing to do with personal hygiene and people of any age can develop an infection. With that said, there are some risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing a fungal nail infection including:

  • Older age - there is reduced blood flow to the feet and you have had an increased amount of time to be exposed to fungal infections.

  • Sweaty feet especially if spending long periods in socks and shoes.

  • Damage to the nails including trauma or psoriasis.

  • Walking barefoot in warm, damp environments such as communal showers and bathrooms.

  • Attending nail salons which do not adhere to appropriate sterilisation procedures.


The type of fungal infection will determine the treatment required. A small, superficial infection will often be cleared with a topical treatment. More deeply infected nails may require substantial debridement and topical treatment, or even oral medications. Your podiatrist will be able to assess the extent of the infection and recommend a treatment protocol.

Tips to Avoid a Fungal Nail Infection

  • Avoid communal nail polishes: A nail polish used by many other people can be the perfect route of infection. Imagine someone with a fungal infection had their nails painted before you. The spores of that fungus were picked up on the brush and dipped back into the pot, waiting for their opportunity to infect your nails.

  • Avoid leaving nail polish on too long: There is some debate about whether occluding the nail with nail polish will make the infection worse. At the very least, it will make you unable to see a progressing infection and unable to begin early treatment. Paint your nails for a special occasion but be sure to remove it within the next couple of days.

  • Wear shoes in communal showers/bathrooms: Fungus loves warm, damp environments and thrives in communal showers and bathrooms. Ensuring you always wear shoes in these, even if it is just a pair of thongs, will go a long way to preventing the contraction of a fungal infection.

  • Regularly change your socks: If you have particularly sweaty feet, taking a spare pair of socks to change into during the day can be very helpful. At the very minimum, always wear a fresh pair of socks daily.

If you have a nail that has changed in colour or you are at all concerned about your nail appearance, call us on 07 3088 6116 for further information or to book an appointment.

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