Stages of Fingernail Fungus

If not treated early on, fingernail infections can spread and become painful.
If not treated early on, fingernail infections can spread and become painful. (Image: Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Fungus is capable of infecting your fingernail and when it does the first indication of the infection will be a yellow or white spot under the tip of your fingernail. As the infection spreads deeper into the nail the nail may discolor and get thicker. The edges of your fingernail crumble. The medical term for a nail infection of this nature is onychomycosis, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Early On

Initially you are not going to experience any pain because of the nail infection. You may not even realize that you have a fungus under your fingernail or nails. When the discomfort becomes noticeable the infection has already progressed beyond the time of early intervention and you are well on your way into the intermediate stage.


An untreated early stage infection will cause the fingernail to become yellow and completely lose its luster. As the infection progresses, the nail continues to lose shape and thickens. At this point the nail may split from the nail bed, explains You may notice that the nail shape has become distorted and there is a dark color under your nail that is the result of debris that has accumulated there.


When the fungal infection has reached the extreme stage you may lose your nail entirely. You will probably smell a bad odor emanating from the exposed nail bed.

Secondary Infection

If your nail has grown into the skin of your finger this can cause a secondary infection. When this happens, the nail crumbles off and then re-grows and the same thing happens again. Treating a secondary infection is tricky.

Other Possibilities

Not all nail infections are caused by a fungus. Consequently, when you suspect you have a nail infection consult with your physician so she can determine the cause and provide the proper treatment. It is possible that you have lichen planus, psoriasis or eczema, which manifest much the same way that nail fungal infections do. Lichen planus results in a rash on your skin and mostly affects adults and rarely children. It is caused by exposure to chemical substances and by hepatitis C. Psoriasis is a skin disease where the cells on the skin build rapidly and create silvery scales that are thick and red, dry patches that can hurt. Eczema results in rashes that itch and scaly skin and occurs when a person has an allergic reaction to something. This condition can lead to skin inflammation that is long-term. Blisters can appear and ooze before crusting over. Leather-like areas may crop up on your skin because you have scratched your skin so much. This is called lichenification.

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