Nail Conditions that may be Confused for Fungal Nails

Have you recently noticed some changes to your toenails that don’t look too good?

Are you wondering what it could be?

Have you now become a victim of the dreaded “fungal toenail infection”?

Is it possible that your nails might not be infected with fungus, but could possibly have something else wrong with them? After all, a lot of nail conditions can present very similarly.

Let’s look at a few classic examples of nail conditions that may be mistaken for fungal nails:

  1. Nails and ridges in the nail plate: Vertical lines in the nail plate are somewhat considered completely normal and are common during periods of hormonal change (e.g. pregnancy). Other reasons some peoples’ nails will show new lines or ridges is due to some medications (e.g. chemotherapy).
  2. Senile Nails: Nails naturally have a tendency to become more brittle as a person ages. Tip: you can slow down this process by not soaking your fingernails in water.
  3. Whitish or yellowish nails: The presence of whitish or yellow-like section/portion of nail can be caused by “onycholysis”. Onycholysis is when the nail plate separates or “lifts” from the nail bed. Most of the time this can occur secondary to trauma or the nail being so long that it catches onto something and lifts. The colour you see is air beneath the nail plate. The treatment for this, is to cut the nail back all the way to the attached portion. If a lifted nail persists, this can lead to a possible fungal infection of the nail.
  4. Greenish coloured nails: This can be caused by a bacteria called, Pseudomonasbacteria, which grow under a nail that has partially separated from the nail bed. This infection may cause a really bad odour from the nails. The treatment is to trim the nail short every four weeks, don’t clean it, polish if you want to hide the color, and wait two to three months
  5. Pitted nails: May be associated with psoriasis or other skin or systemic conditions which affect the nail matrix (nail root).
  6. Chronic nail trauma: such as tight footwear, excessive downhill running (where your toenail hits the shoe).
  7. Nail polish damage: Some dark-coloured nail polishes or shellac/gel can stain the toenails with a whitish colour that can be commonly mistaken for fungus


The best way to confirm what condition is affecting your nails is to see a podiatrist as we all very familiar with every nail condition and we can lead you on the right treatment path.


Dr Jessica Shehata (Podiatrist)