How to Get Toenail Fungus: Causes, Symptoms, Nail Treatments, and Prevention Tips

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Toenail fungus is a very common problem. It’s estimated that about 3% to 12% of the population has it. And it gets more common as you age.

The good news is that there are things you can do to prevent and treat it. In this blog post, we’ll go over the causes, symptoms, and prevention tips for toenail fungus.

What Is A Fungal Nail Infection?

A fungal nail infection is a condition that can cause your fingernails or toenails to become thick, yellow, and brittle. The nails may also separate from the nail bed. A fungal nail infection is caused by a type of fungus called dermatophyte.

What Are The Major Nail Fungal Infection Causes?

Nail fungus is caused by a dermatophyte, which is a type of fungi that thrives in warm, moist environments. The most common cause of nail fungus is exposure to wet, public places like pools, locker rooms, and showers. Fungal infections can also be caused by trauma to the nail or skin around the nail.

Risk Factors For Nail Fungus

1. Poor Hygiene

Good hygiene is an important factor in preventing the development of toenail fungus. To reduce the risk of infection, it is important to avoid sharing tools used for manicures and pedicures and ensure that hands are washed thoroughly after coming into contact with any kind of fungal infection. Additionally, keeping skin clean and dry can help discourage fungal growth. While it is unlikely that a few exposures to an unclean environment will cause a serious case of fungal infection, maintaining good hygiene will help protect against unwanted fungi.

2. Tight Footwear

Tight footwear can be a cause of toenail fungus due to the fact that it restricts airflow and creates an environment that is ideal for fungal growth. The lack of air circulation in tight shoes encourages moisture buildup on the feet, which makes them an ideal place for fungus to thrive. This is why it is important to choose shoes that are properly sized and not too tight as this can greatly reduce one’s risk of developing a fungal infection.

3. Moisture

Moisture plays an important role in the development of toenail fungus. Moist, warm environments are fertile grounds for fungal growth, as it provides an ideal environment for the microorganisms that cause toenail fungus. Additionally, excessive perspiration or contact with moist areas around public pools or other public areas can also lead to infection. By minimizing exposure to these places and taking measures such as wearing protective footgear and drying feet thoroughly after bathing, one can reduce the risk of developing toenail fungus.

4. Injury To The Nail

An injury to the nail can cause toenail fungus, especially if the area is kept damp or exposed to other organisms. Trauma to the nail bed can create an ideal environment for fungal growth and spread. People with weakened immune systems may also be more likely to develop a fungal infection due to their decreased ability fight off infection.

5. Diabetes

Diabetes and toenail fungus are both associated with high blood sugar levels. It is believed that diabetes may be caused by a high number of sugar molecules in the blood, which can also lead to an increased risk of developing toenail fungus. Good foot hygiene habits, inspecting for sores, and keeping the skin dry are key aspects of reducing the risk of toe fungus for people with diabetes.

6. Weak immune system

People who have a weakened immune system due to age, certain medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, cancer or psoriasis, or long-term medication use are more likely to develop toenail fungus. A weakened immune system makes it harder for the body to fight off infection and increases the risk of developing fungal nail infections. In addition, people with a weak immune system may be more prone to wetting their feet and hands frequently and spending time in humid environments that promote fungal growth. To reduce the risk of developing toenail fungus, people with weakened immune systems should avoid tight-fitting shoes and wear plastic gloves when their hands are exposed for extended periods of time.

7. Use Of Public Showers Or Pools

Using public showers or pools is a cause of toenail fungus because the warm and moist environment can provide an ideal breeding ground for fungi. Walking around these areas with bare feet can increase the risk of fungal infection by providing a direct route for the fungi to enter and infect your nails.

8. Age

It is commonly accepted that the likelihood of developing toenail fungus increases with age. Elderly people are particularly at risk for this condition, which can cause discoloration and thickening of the nail as well as an unpleasant smell. Prevention and early diagnosis are key to mitigating its effects, so it is important for older adults to be aware of the symptoms associated with toenail fungus and take preventive measures such as wearing foot protection in damp environments.

9. Excessive Sweating

Sweating can increase the risk of developing toenail fungus due to its ability to create a damp environment favorable for fungal growth. Wearing shoes that cause feet to sweat heavily, walking barefoot in damp public areas, and having skin conditions that affect the nails can also increase one’s chances of getting nail fungus. People with diabetes, blood flow problems or weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable due to their bodies’ lowered resistance against infection.

10. Poor Circulation

Poor circulation is a known cause of toenail fungus because it restricts the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the feet, which can lead to an environment conducive to fungal growth. Additionally, people with poor circulation are more likely to have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or hyperhidrosis that can increase their risk for developing a fungal infection.

What Are The Symptoms Of Toenail Fungus?

1. Discolored Or Thickened Toenails

Toenail fungus can present with a variety of symptoms. Some common signs of toenail fungus include discoloration or yellowing, thickening and crumbling of the nail, and a foul odor from the infected area. Symptoms may also include pain and discomfort when walking or wearing shoes.

2. White Or Yellow Streaks Under The Toenail

White or yellow streaks under the toenail indicate a health condition and could be a sign of toenail fungus. Toenail fungus can be caused by several factors, such as poor diet and stress, and may be made worse if acrylic nails are worn. Treatments for toenail fungus vary, with some products containing tea tree oil being effective in combating infection. Additionally, yellow nail syndrome is another condition where nails become yellow and brittle which should also receive attention from a medical professional.

3. Foul Odor Coming From The Toenail

Toenail fungus can cause a foul odor due to the metabolic byproducts that it produces. These byproducts can range from fruity to vinegar-like odors, and even sulfur-y smells. The imbalance of the fungal population in the area around the nail is what causes these odors.

4. Brittle Toenails

One symptom of toenail fungus is a change in the color of the nail, such as it becoming yellowish or darker in hue. Additionally, there may be a loss of shine and the nails may become brittle.

5. Toenail Separation From The Nail Bed

Toenail separation from the nail bed is a symptom of toenail fungus because the fungus can cause the toenails to separate from their nail bed, causing them to crack, break or become misshapen and thicker.

6. Tenderness When Wearing Shoes

Tenderness when wearing shoes is a common symptom of toenail fungus. This can be caused by wearing shoes that make the feet hot and sweaty, sharing towels, or wearing other people’s shoes. To prevent toenail fungus and reduce tenderness when wearing shoes, one should not wear such footwear, avoid sharing towels, and not wear other people’s shoes. Furthermore, it is important to also not share nail clippers or scissors in order to reduce the risk of contracting a fungal infection.

7. Redness And Swelling Around The Toenail

Patients may experience yellowing or thickening of the toenails, white spots on the nails, flaking and crumbling of the nail surface, pain when walking or wearing shoes, foul smell from the nails, and nail separation from the skin. If any of these symptoms appear, it is important to contact a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment. People with diabetes or weakened immune systems should consult with their healthcare provider before attempting to treat toenail fungus themselves.

8. Itching Or Burning Sensation Around The Toenail

The symptoms of toenail fungus include a thick, white growth on the nail, yellowing of the nail, and pain when walking or standing. In some cases, there may be no noticeable symptoms of toenail fungus. If this is the case, it is possible that another condition may be responsible for the odd-looking toenail.

9. Pain When Walking Or Running

The symptoms of toenail fungus can include discoloration and thickening of the nail, as well as crumbling or lifting of the nail. Other signs that may indicate an infection include bad odor, burning sensation in or around the affected area, and pain when wearing shoes.

10. Changes In Texture Of The Toenail

Toenail fungus can result in changes to the texture of the nails, including brittleness, crumbling, cracking or separation from the nail bed. In addition, the infected toenails may become white or yellow in appearance.

How Do You Spot And Treat Toenail Fungus?

Step 1: Learn The Common Symptoms Of Toenail Fungus

The common symptoms of toenail fungus include discoloration and thickening of the nail, brittle or crumbly nails, foul odor, and debris accumulation under the nail. Other signs may include discomfort when wearing shoes or standing for long periods of time.

Step 2: Take Steps To Prevent Toenail Fungus

It is important to take steps to prevent toenail fungus because it is a common problem that can cause discomfort, pain, and other potential health issues. Practicing good foot hygiene habits such as keeping the feet clean and dry, trimming the toenails regularly, and avoiding nail polish can help reduce the risk of developing this condition. Additionally, antifungal creams or oral medications may be used for treatment if infection does occur.

Step 3: Seek Medical Advice If You Notice Any Signs Of Toenail Fungus

One of the signs of toenail fungus is a change in color. Uneven growth or cracks in the nails could also indicate a fungal infection. If any of these symptoms are noticed, it is important to see a podiatrist for diagnosis and treatment plan. A nail sample may be taken for testing to confirm the presence of fungus.

Step 4: Try Natural Home Treatments To Reduce Symptoms

Toenail fungus can be difficult to treat and many people require the help of a doctor or medical professional. Natural home treatments that can help reduce symptoms of toenail fungus include keeping feet clean and dry, avoiding tight shoes, wearing socks made from natural fibers, avoiding nail polish, trimming nails regularly and soaking feet in warm water with salt or vinegar for 15 minutes daily. Additionally, over-the-counter antifungal medications may also be used.

Step 5: Follow Up With Your Doctor If Your Symptoms Don’t Improve

It is important for people to follow up with their doctor if their symptoms of toenail fungus don’t improve, as this could be a sign that something else is wrong or that the treatment isn’t working as it should. Failing to do so could lead to further complications, such as an increased risk of infection or spread of the fungal infection.

Step 6: Try Over-The-Counter Anti-Fungal Treatments

One of the most common over-the-counter treatments for toenail fungus are antifungal medications, which come in various forms. These medications typically must be used for several months in order to see results. Additionally, daily cleansing may help suppress mild infections. Toenail fungus can be treated by filing off any white markings on the nail surface and applying an over-the-counter antifungal agent. Even though the best treatment options exist within over-the-counter products, they may not fully stop a fungal infection from recurring, so it is important to continuously use treatment until the infection is completely gone.

Step 7: Take Proper Foot Care Steps To Prevent Reinfection

To prevent reinfection of toenail fungus, it is important to keep the feet clean and dry, wear comfortable shoes, trim the toenails regularly, disinfect the tools used for foot care before and after use, avoid sharing footwear with others, use antifungal sprays on shoes if necessary, wash hands properly after coming in contact with infected nails and wear moisture-reducing socks. Additionally, it is advised to not get a manicure or pedicure from an untrusted salon.

Step 8: Consider Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave Therapy is a laser-based treatment approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the temporary increase in clear nail in patients with onychomycosis, or toenail fungus. This therapy works by emitting sound waves that penetrate deep into the tissue, destroying fungal infection on the nail. Treatment is painless and most people don’t feel any discomfort, with results seen after just one visit. After treatment, healthy nails typically grow back within 12 to 18 months.

Step 9: Avoid Activities That Put Stress On Your Feet

Activities such as walking, running, and standing for long periods of time can put a lot of stress on the feet. This can cause the feet to become warm and sweaty, making them an ideal environment for toenail fungus to develop. To help minimize the risk of developing a fungal infection, it is important to wear comfortable shoes that allow your feet to breathe, avoid sharing towels or other personal items with others, avoid wearing someone else’s shoes or using their nail clippers or scissors; regularly wash and dry your hands and feet; keep your nails trimmed; and change socks often.

Step 10: Seek Professional Pedicures To Maintain Healthy Feet

Professional pedicures are important for preventing and treating toenail fungus. Proper hygiene and regular inspection of the feet and toes can help spot the early signs of fungal nails. Wearing shoes that fit comfortably, avoiding tight hosiery, disinfecting instruments used to cut nails before use, and getting professional pedicures can all help decrease the risk of developing a nail infection. Professional pedicures can also provide treatments such as taking antibiotics or applying topical medications if athlete’s foot is present. Additionally, surgery may be an option for more serious cases of toenail fungus.

What Are Some Tips For Preventing Toenail Fungus?

1. Keep Feet Clean And Dry

It is important to keep feet clean and dry in order to prevent the spread of toenail fungus. Wearing cotton socks, clipping nails short, and avoiding walking barefoot in public areas will help reduce the risk of exposure to fungal sources. Additionally, treating athlete’s foot quickly prevents it from spreading to the nails.

2. Wear Breathable Socks And Shoes

It is important to wear breathable socks and shoes in order to prevent toenail fungus because they help keep the feet cool and dry, thus limiting the conditions that are favorable for fungal growth. Wearing well-fitting shoes made of natural materials also helps prevent fungus from growing since synthetic materials trap moisture against the skin and can make feet hot and sweaty. Additionally, regularly clipping nails short makes it more difficult for bacteria or fungus to settle under them.

3. Avoid Walking Barefoot In Public Places

It is important to avoid walking barefoot in public places for a variety of reasons, including the potential for infections that can arise from contact with surfaces that may carry bacteria or fungi. Walking barefoot exposes feet and toes to hot and sweaty conditions, as well as to materials and substances which cannot be easily cleaned off. To minimize risk of infection, it is recommended that one wears socks or other protective footwear in public places, washes their hands frequently, and dries their feet completely before putting on shoes or socks. Additionally, it is advised not to pick at the skin around nails nor use nail polish or fake nails on nails as these activities increase the likelihood of infection.

4. Change Socks And Shoes Daily

Changing socks and shoes on a weekly basis is important for preventing toenail fungus, as it helps to reduce the chances of spreading athlete’s foot. Additionally, wearing shoes that do not trap heat and moisture can help reduce the risk of fungal growth. It is also important to avoid sharing towels and nail clippers or scissors in order to prevent the spread of infection.

5. Wear Shoes That Fit Properly

It is important to wear shoes that fit properly in order to prevent chronic foot and ankle pain. Shoes should not be worn if they make feet hot and sweaty, are shared, or used by other people as this increases the risk of developing fungal infections such as toenail fungus. Wearing properly fitting shoes can help reduce the chances of developing toenail fungus, making it easier for you to spot and treat any symptoms of infection early on.

6. Keep Toenails Trimmed And Filed

Keeping toenails trimmed and filed can help prevent toenail fungus by reducing the amount of bacteria in the toe nail and keeping nails short, which reduces the chance of ingrown toenails. Regular trimming and filing also helps ensure that shoes fit well and are made from materials that will not harbor fungi. Additionally, wearing something on your feet when going to places where people walk around barefoot is recommended.

7. Avoid Nail Salons That Do Not Practice Proper Sanitation

It is important to avoid nail salons that do not practice proper sanitation because these salons can spread fungal infections and cause a person to develop a fungal nail infection. When proper sanitization measures are not taken, the risk of transmitting the infection increases significantly. Therefore, it is essential for individuals to take safety precautions when visiting any type of salon or public facility in order to reduce their risk of developing an infection.

8. Avoid Wearing Tight Hosiery Or Shoes

It is important to avoid tight hosiery or shoes because doing so can lead to chronic foot and ankle pain. Additionally, it is important to avoid sharing towels, nail clippers, or scissors as it can increase the risk of spreading and contracting toenail fungus.

9. Wear Sandals Or Flip-Flops At Public Pools Or Showers

Wearing sandals or flip-flops at public pools or showers can help prevent toenail fungus by helping to keep feet clean and dry. This reduces the chances of athlete’s foot, which can be a gateway for fungal infections in the nails. Additionally, wearing personal footwear when in public areas helps protect against the spread of infection from other people’s shoes.

10. Use Antifungal Powder Or Spray On Feet And Shoes

Using antifungal powders or sprays is an effective way to prevent the spread of toenail fungus. Applying these treatments can help keep the feet clean and dry, which is important for keeping fungal infections at bay. Additionally, antifungal treatments can be used to treat existing fungal infections and reduce symptoms such as discoloration and thickening of the nail plate.

FAQs

What Is Toenail Fungus?

Toenail fungus is a type of fungal infection that affects the toenails. It can cause the nails to become thicker, painful when wearing shoes, and present with white marks on the nail plate. Treatment for this condition may include antifungal medications or surgery. Prevention tips include avoiding walking barefoot in public areas, keeping feet dry and clean, and wearing socks made from natural fabrics like cotton.

What Are The Symptoms Of Toenail Fungus?

Toenail fungus can present a variety of symptoms, including dark debris build-up under the nail, white spots or patches on the surface of the nail, and distal subungual toenail fungus. To treat toenail fungus, it is advisable to use topical medications or surgery.

What Are The Causes Of Toenail Fungus?

Toenail fungus is caused by fungi, and can be triggered by various factors, including walking barefoot in public, injury, recurrent infection, diabetes, a suppressed immune system, recent surgeries or injuries, wearing poor-fitting shoes having poor circulation and sweating. Additionally those with weakened toenails are more likely to develop fungal infections as well as older adults and those with psoriasis. Fungus often spreads under conditions where it may be present in high numbers such as when wearing shoes that are not fitting properly or spending a lot of time in water or humid areas. Smoking can also contribute to the onset of an infection.

What Are The Treatment Options For Toenail Fungus?

Toenail fungus can be treated with a variety of options including surgery, acid treatment and laser devices. Prescribed oral antifungals are the “standard” treatment for toenail fungus, and are effective for most people. Home remedies such as tea tree oil or Vicks VapoRub may not be recommended by podiatrists and have not been studied well. Laser treatments for toenail fungus may also be covered by insurance if prescribed by a doctor, though there is uncertainty around them.

What Is The Success Rate Of Toenail Fungus Treatments?

The success rate of toenail fungus treatments is highly dependent on the type of treatment used. Oral systemic antifungal medications, such as Lamisil, have a high success rate and are generally safe. Topical treatments are not as effective but can still work if someone is highly motivated. Home remedies for toenail fungus have a 10% cure rate, however this can be improved with consistent use and motivation.

How Can Toenail Fungus Be Prevented?

In order to prevent toenail fungus, it is important to wear shoes in public areas, keep injuries clean and covered, avoid nail polish, properly trim and clean your feet and nails, wear socks that are moisture-wicking, and apply antifungal sprays or treatments to the feet or shoes. Additionally, individuals with age-related or underlying conditions may benefit from preventative products specifically designed for this purpose.

How Do You Know If You Have Toenail Fungus?

If someone notices a thick, yellow or brown coating on their nails, they may be suffering from toenail fungus. A visit to a podiatrist is necessary for diagnosis and treatment of the infection which often involves medication as part of a prescribed treatment plan. Left untreated, toenail fungus can spread to other nails and even the rest of the body.

What Are The Risk Factors For Toenail Fungus?

Risk factors for toenail fungus include athlete’s foot (tinea pedis), diabetes, hyperhidrosis (a disorder that makes you sweat a lot), a weakened immune system, poor circulation, psoriasis, superficial toe injuries, recent surgeries or nail infections, and wearing shoes that are ill-fitting. People with any of these conditions are more likely to suffer from toenail fungus.

Can Toenail Fungus Be Cured?

It is possible to cure toenail fungus, although it can be very difficult and expensive. Doctors may remove the infected nail or dissolve it with acid, or use laser devices approved by the FDA. Oral systemic antifungal medications are often an effective treatment for toenail fungus but 25% of patients will not respond. Lamisil is safe and can be used in around 75% of cases, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Home remedies such as tea tree oil or Vicks VapoRub may have limited effectiveness and should not be relied on as a primary treatment. In order to keep the infection under control, cleaning and drying the area regularly may help if left untreated; however, prevention is always better than cure when it comes to treating any type of fungal infection such as this one.

What Are The Complications Of Toenail Fungus?

The potential complications of toenail fungus include pain and difficulty walking, as well as thicker nails. If left untreated, it may lead to cellulitis, a serious infection that may require hospitalization or even a weakened immune system.