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Types of Nail Fungus

There are many types of nail fungus that cause infections of the fingernails and toenails. Unfortunately you need to visit your doctor to find out exactly which one you may have as not all fungus is treated in the same way.

To determine the type of nail fungus you have the doctor will take a sample and this will be grown and analyzed in a laboratory. You will then need to revisit your doctor, get the diagnosis, and then the doctor will describe you a prescription drug to cure the specific fungus.

Now you will need to consider your options carefully here as to which process you choose to cure your nail fungus. Prescription verses a F.D.A. registered Natural Alternative. Prescription drugs do work but are expensive and side effects are becoming more and more common. Purpose designed natural alternatives are becoming much more accepted, cost far less, and have virtually no side effects.



This article is for general information about the types of nail fungus

and is not to be used as a diagnosis tool.

First let's look at

What is Nail Fungus and why is it called Onychomycosis?

Onychomycosis is a technical term that simply means fungal infection of the nail.

It is a common disease and constitutes about half of all the abnormalities in nails.

Onychomycosis is caused by dermatophytes, a common label for a group of three types of fungus that commonly causes skin disease in animals and humans.

Simply, dermatophytes cause infections of the skin, hair and nails due to their ability to obtain nutrients from keratinized materials.

As Onychomycosis is not a common word used in the general public most people simply refer to it as a nail fungus or toenail fungus.

toenail anatomy

Anatomy of a Finger Nail

Here is the toenail anatomy to help explain how the four types of fungus invade and affect your finger nail.

There are Four Classic Types of Nail Fungus

Distal Subungual Onychomycosis

Distal Subungual Onychomycosis This is the most common form of tinea unguium. Usually caused by the dermatophyte Trichophyton rubrum; a fungus that has adapted for living in hair, skin and nails.

This infection typically begins at the hyponychium, the area at the toe or fingertip under the end of the nail. This fungus invades the nail bed and the underside of the nail plate spreading throughout the nail matrix backwards to the cuticle.

Mild inflammation develops, resulting in focal parakeratosis and subungual hyperkeratosis, with two consequences: onycholysis (detachment of the nail plate from the nail bed) and thickening of the subungual region. This subungual space then can serve as a reservoir for superinfecting bacteria and molds, giving the nail plate a yellowish brown appearance.

More Distal Subungual Onychomycosis Images

 White Superficial Onychomycosis

White Superficial Onychomycosis Is caused by Trichophyton mentagrophytes, another dermatophyte.

This type of fungus begins to grow in the superficial layers of the nail plate to form "white islands" or white, speckled or powdery patches on the surface of the plate, eventually spreading to the whole surface of the nail. This type of fungus, usually the Trichophyton mentagrophytes, breaks down the nail itself feeding on keratin making the nail soft, crumbly and deformed.



More White Superficial Onychomycosis Images


 Proximal Subungual Onychomycosis

Proximal Subungual Onychomycosis This type of nail fungus penetrates a newly formed nail plate through the proximal nail fold; the small flap of skin that covers the nail just behind the cuticle. The fungus then invades the root and spreads outward toward the tip of the nail.

In Proximal Subungual Onychomycosis, the principal causative agent is Trichophyton rubrum. Leukonychia or the abnormal white spots in the nail, is typically associated with marked periungual inflammation. Proximal subungual onychomycosis is the least common form of tinea unguium in healthy people but found more commonly when the patient is immunocompromised.

More Proximal Subungual Onychomycosis Images

 Candidal Onychomycosis

Candida species invade fingernails usually occurring in persons who frequently immerse their hands in water who have had prior damage or trauma of the nail. Candidal onychomycosis is frequently observed in premature children, in immunocompromised patients, and in persons with chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis, or those having candidal infections in other areas like the mouth or vagina.

 Endonyx Onychomycosis

Endonyx onychomycosis presents as a milky white discoloration of the nail plate, but, in contrast to distal lateral subungual onychomycosis, no evidence of subungual hyperkeratosis or onycholysis is present.

 Total Dystrophic Onychomycosis

Total Dystrophic Onychomycosis is used to describe endstage nail disease, although some clinicians consider it a distinct subtype. It may be the end result of any of the four main patterns of onychomycosis. The entire nail unit becomes thick and dystrophic.

 Different Types of Nail Infection Fungus

Types of Nail Fungus can be divided up into three basic groups:

  • Dermatophytes,
  • Non-dermatophyte molds/Saprophytes, and
  • Yeasts/ Candida Albicans

It is a good idea to have your suspected nail fungus examined by your doctor or physician before treatment.  Many of the fungal nail infections are treated the same way and respond to the same medication but it is important to know which fungus is causing the infection.


  • A dermatophyte is a fungus belonging to one of three fungal genera: Trichophyton, Microsporum, and Epidermophyton.
  • Dermatophytes are the most common fungi in onychomycosis specifically adapted to break down keratin (the protein in nails, horns, hoofs, hair and skin cells) as a nutrient source. Keratin is a tough protective substance that gives rigidity to these tissues.
  • Dermatophytes are usually the kind of fungi that is passed from person to person in swimming pools, public showers, saunas, nail salons etc.
  • Typically a dermatophyte nail infection may turn white, yellowish, brown, or black. A green colour could be a sign of a bacterial infection rather than fungus. The colouring is caused from the pigments produced while the fungus is growing. As the fungus grows the nail becomes soft and flaky, pieces of nail may break away, and the surrounding tissue may become irritated. In advanced stages the nail could be completely destroyed or fall off.


  • Saprophytes are typically involved in the breakdown of decaying organic matter.
  • Saprophytes are rarely a threat unless you contact the fungi while contacting the soil or decaying organic matter. You may have an increased chance of an infection if you have damage to the nail or skin where the fungi spores can penetrate.
  • If you find your nail is changing and you have been gardening it is best you seek medical advice to determine exactly if it is an onychomycosis case.


  • A yeast infection is not a nail infection type of fungus. However they are closely related organisms that can infect the nails.
  • A yeast infection is typically painful and the infection comes on much more quickly. The tenderness of the infection will force you to seek medical attention sooner than later.
  • A yeast infection typically occurs in people whose feet and hands are often in wet conditions or in water.

There are many types of nail fungus that cause infections of the fingernails and toenails.

If you suspect you have a nail fungus of some type you need to visit your doctor to find out exactly which one you may have as not all fungus is treated in the same way. A sample will be taken and grown in a laboratory to determine the exact type of fungi causing the infection.



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