Toenail Fungus and the Immune System
Toenail fungus affects the healthy condition of the nailbed and spreads rapidly. Signs of infection include yellow cuticles, cracking, peeling, and thickened flaking nails. The skin surrounding the toenail is inflamed and tender and if left without treatment, the nail suffers severe damage.
Did you know that if the nail infection spreads, the fungus can appear elsewhere on the body? Treatment is required to address the condition before it causes widespread physical difficulties. The earlier you treat your toenail fungus, the better your chances of getting rid of it for good.
A simple toenail fungus carries a high risk for people with a compromised immune system. Secondary infections can lead to further damage. An infection has the potential to spread throughout the body when skin surrounding an infected nailbed is broken. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream and can lead to disorders from cellulitis and gangrene to septicemia.
To help you understand how the immune system protects you from fungal infections, this guide examines the causes and symptoms of fungal ailments affecting the nailbed. This includes the underlying reasons for nail fungus.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Does the Immune System Kill Toenail Fungus?
- 2 Everything You Need to Know About Toenail Fungus
- 2.1 Can Toenail Fungus Cause Infections?
- 2.2 Can Toenail Fungus Spread Elsewhere?
- 2.3 What Are the Different Kinds of Toenail Fungus?
- 2.4 Toenail Fungus Treatments
- 2.5 What Should I Do Now?
Does the Immune System Kill Toenail Fungus?
You’ve probably wondered why your body seems to fight other conditions effectively, but not toenail fungus. It’s true: as healthy as you might be, it won’t help your body get rid of toenail fungus. There’s a very good reason for that.
The fungus responsible for toenail infections grows and spreads in humid, dark and damp conditions. All it takes is a single spore to reach the nailbed and start the infection. Unfortunately, the immune system is limited in targeting and eliminating nail fungus. Immunity works through the blood vessels and circulatory system. This makes toenail fungal conditions impossible for the body to self-treat.
When the body is affected by a foreign element, its first line of defense is the immune system. The white blood cells and other defense mechanisms work together to contain and eliminate these particles. The problem with a toenail fungus is that the source of infection is located in the nailbed. A cuticle does not contain sufficient blood vessels for the immune system to reach infections.
This means that the only option is to treat fungus yourself. You can use gels, creams, and ointments to do the job that your white blood cells cannot. It’s best that you do; the fungal infection is highly contagious and rapidly spreads in warm and moisture-prone areas.
That is why such ailments affect the feet more commonly than the hands. Common treatments include antifungal ointments and oral medication. Large doses of prescription drugs are necessary that include undesirable side effects.
How Does Toenail Fungus Spread?
Your feet provide a warm, moist and dark environment where the fungal spores can thrive. Locker rooms, saunas, nail salons, and public showers in gyms are common areas of infection owing to an abundance of moisture. Symptoms are difficult to contain without a comprehensive treatment plan. This is why if you fail to treat toenail fungus, it will simply continue to spread and become worse.
The spores responsible for toenail fungal ailments are microscopic in size. A single surviving particle can cause reinfection. Optimum hygiene practices are therefore needed to prevent the infection from spreading. Cleanliness restricts access through broken skin surrounding the toenail. This includes washing and drying the feet thoroughly, not reusing socks and sterilizing shoes regularly. Failure to do so will cause re-infection.
Supplements and natural remedies can prevent the bacteria from the nail from entering through broken skin. They keep the immune system strong to protect against secondary infections. The nail must be treated but will grow out to reveal a new cuticle. Detecting changes in your toenails early can avoid the pain, poor appearance and unmanageable condition that presents.
So, while it’s clear that toenail fungus spreads in certain conditions, can a poor immune system cause you to catch it?
Can Weak Immune System Cause Toenail Fungus?
A weak immune system can increase susceptibility for contracting a toenail fungus. Older adults, pregnant women, those with diabetes, HIV or immune disorders are at greater risk of contracting toenail infections. It is imperative that a worsening toenail condition is assessed by a doctor. Persons with diabetes who present with toenail fungus must seek medical assistance.
Most seniors contract nail infections owing to poor circulation in the extremities and weaker immune function. The nails will develop at a much slower pace allowing sporadic fungal growth. Before the fresh nail can grow out and infection be cut away, the fungus has taken over the new cuticle. Unfortunately, the risk of toenail fungal infection is much higher in a weak immune system. It is also more difficult to overcome and prevent.
The problem of a weak immune system and toenail infection is the potential to spread into the body. Diabetes, age or medications can affect immune strength. Individuals are susceptible to complex and life-threatening disorders. A minor break in the skin surrounding affected nails provides an entry point for bacteria. Without the defense of a strong immunity, the invader quickly gets into the bloodstream.
The fungus then has full reign to invade the circulatory system. Affected patients can develop cellulitis, a painful bacterial infection of the skin. Without a strong course of antibiotics and hygiene, cellulitis can become septic.
What is Toenail Fungus?
So, aside from a weak immune system, what can cause toenail fungus? And what is it? To identify and manage toenail fungus, the causes must be determined and controlled. Fungal infections are relatively common and relatively easy to resolve, but without action, they can quickly spread. The fungus responsible for nail infections is Onychomycosis or tinea unguium.
This fungus consists of microspores that grow over time. Once it takes over the nail, the transformation in the condition of your nail is rapid. Infections go from a single white spot to crumbled and thickened cuticles. If you suspect the presence of toenail fungus, you have to immediately start treating it. Such infections cannot resolve on their own.
What Are the Causes Of Toenail Fungus?
- Nail fungus can be contracted from athlete’s foot, jock itch, and ringworm already on the body. The microspores can spread under the nailbed. Warm, dark and moist conditions associated with feet provide ideal environments for its growth.
- Public showers, swimming pools and moisture prone areas where bare feet are exposed can cause fungal contamination. The fungus loves damp and dark areas making showers and baths the ideal sources of infection.
- A pampering spa experience sounds fantastic, but pedicures put you at risk of foot fungus. Moist environments that are not sanitized carry the risk of fungal contaminants. From the basins used to soak feet to the trimming tools, all require sanitation. When visiting a beauty salon, determine which maintenance procedures are conducted to avoid infection.
- Problems of circulation, particularly in the limbs, risks toenail and foot problems. Older adults and diabetes sufferers are highly susceptible to contracting toenail fungi. When circulation is affected, the blood flow to the feet and nails is limited. Signs of a fungal infection within the toenails are not as noticeable in healthier people. The cause for increased risk is because the nails are weak. Such individuals are required to regularly have their feet clinically assessed to detect infections fast. The Revitive Circulation Booster can be highly beneficial.
- A lack of general hygiene is a major contributing factor. Failing to keep your feet clean and free from sweaty, stuffy socks and shoes will leave fungal infections to form at a rapid pace. The moisture and dirt create the best living conditions for toenail fungus.
You are at greater risk of developing a fungal infection if:
- You are 65 years and older
- Possess poor blood circulation to the limbs
- Suffer nail trauma
- Are diabetic or possess an immune compromising condition
- Use public showers or pools
- Have a compromised immune system
- Toenail fungus is highly contagious. It is easily transferred between people sharing clothes, towels or shoes.
What Are the Symptoms of Toenail Fungus?
Whether you are healthy or managing a compromised immune system, protecting against fungal infection is important. Ignoring a toenail infection is not the solution. It must be addressed efficiently before it affects the entire set of nails or enters the body. The best way to manage secondary complications is to identify its symptoms.
To prevent and successfully treat toenail fungal infections requires a fair understanding of its development. Once the nailbed is affected by the microscopic Onychomycosis, the presence of infection may not be immediately visible. The fungus lies in wait where warm and moist conditions allow it to grow and spread.
Symptoms of a toenail fungus start with a small white spot or mild discoloration of the affected cuticle. The nail may appear mildly yellow or possess a brown tinge. For many, the spots and discolored nailbed may grow out and be clipped off.
If you see the following signs, you most likely have a toenail fungal infection:
- The progression of yellowing, white spots or streaks on the nail surface
- Nail Flaking
- Weak and crumbling nail corners
- Yellow dots along the lower part of the cuticle
- Scaling that forms just under the nail
- Nail Thickening
- Other signs of fungus in toenails include a foul odor coming from the nails, abnormal growth.
To confirm a diagnosis of a fungal nail infection, a doctor must be consulted. A test is performed to determine the fungal agent and appropriate treatment. This is owed to overlapping conditions that often appear as a toenail fungus.
If you notice changes in your toenails, report your symptoms to your local physician. Infections surrounding the nailbed are easier to prevent than treat. Practicing good hygiene and wearing breathable shoes, minimizes the moist, dark conditions enjoyed by the fungus. When attending public showers in a gym, wear flip-flops. Spray an antifungal to avoid coming into contact with the floor.
Regardless of how the fungus is caused, when presenting with symptoms, take the appropriate medical action. Buildup under toenails, an inability to cut crumbled nails and white streaks along cuticles are indicators of infection. Knowing how to spot the symptoms of a fungal infection and ways of reducing risk will protect against secondary complications.
Everything You Need to Know About Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus is not pleasant. Treatment is long and as it is contagious, reinfection is high. Prevention, fast action and maintaining a healthy immune system are best to safeguard against the fungus. Understanding types of toenail fungus and treatment help best manage foot conditions.
Can Toenail Fungus Cause Infections?
Yes, a crack in the skin can allow bacterial infections to enter the body. Athlete’s foot, cellulitis, and gangrene are associated with serious toenail fungal infections.
The infections caused by toenail fungus are of primary concern for those managing diabetes and chronic disease. Having poor immune function makes it difficult for the body to fight the infection. The spread of a toenail fungus occurs when the skin surrounding the toes is cracked, cut or nicked. Clipping affected toenails could accidentally nick the skin. Cracked skin allows bacteria to enter the body.
The skin and toes that appear inflamed and tender to the touch are signs of cellulitis. This is a serious condition. Cellulitis can quickly move into the bloodstream. It must be treated with antibiotics to prevent its migration and fatality.
Infections contracted from a toenail fungus become serious very quickly. It is important to remain aware of changes in the nail appearance and texture. Indications of fungal infections differ from one person to the next. Some may experience white patches on the nails while others develop a thick yellow toenail. One toenail could become infected and spread to the remaining feet. This can give you a clue as to whether your condition is getting worse.
Athlete’s foot is a common fungal ailment contracted from the microbes of toenail fungus. Infected toenails on sweaty feet covered by socks through the day, increase the rate of spread. The nails on your hands are less likely to suffer fungal infection. Your hands, in contrast, are exposed and do not provide the ideal environment for fungi to grow.
Can Toenail Fungus Spread Elsewhere?
Yes, it can spread to other parts of your body if your immune system is weak.
As you know, the immune system is crucial in maintaining general health. It helps the body fight off harmful bacteria and protects against infections. When symptoms of a toenail fungus appear, the question is whether your body is equipped to prevent further complications such as secondary infections.
The fungal infection of the nailbed can quickly spread to remaining unaffected nails and skin. Many suffer the consequences of athlete’s foot as the fungal spores proliferate rapidly and affect the skin surrounding the toes. Wearing shoes and socks, leaving feet to sweat, provides the ideal conditions for fungal growth. If your immune system is not strong, you may be at risk of additional infections elsewhere.
Unfortunately, a poor immune system increases the risk of contracting nail fungus, secondary infections, and physical complications. Where immunity is lacking, the body cannot be adequately protected against foreign bodies. It’s therefore common for an initial infection to spread from toe to toe. It may also spread from one foot to the other, or from one person to another.
A toenail fungus is responsible for severe infections in the body if left untreated. Athlete’s foot is a common ailment that develops as itching and peeling skin across the toes and soles. A condition similar to athlete’s foot includes jock itch. Both men and women can suffer from jock itch. The fungus responsible for athlete’s foot, jock itch and ringworm are related to toenail fungal infections.
What Are the Different Kinds of Toenail Fungus?
There are, indeed, a number of different kinds of toenail fungus:
- Distal Subungual Onychomycosis results from public exposure and is a common fungus. This tough infection requires consistent treatment to eliminate the fungus.
- Candida Onychomycosis is caused by a yeast. It acts similarly to a fungal infection.
- White Superficial Onychomycosis attacks the surface of the nail. It is common and easy to treat.
- Proximal Subungual Onychomycosis is a fungus that consumes keratin. It is most common in those with compromised immune systems including HIV.
Each type of toenail fungal infection shares a common set of symptoms. Each of these infections differs according to severity and rate of spread. Some appear with little discomfort while more severe infections cause pain and tenderness. Of course, there is a chance you are not affected by a toenail fungus at all. Many forms of bacteria affecting the skin and nails are confused with fungus.
The type of toenail fungus is determined by its cause. Repeated trauma to the toenails makes it prone to Candida onychomycosis. Chronic disorders and a weakened immune system allow fungus such as proximal subungual onychomycosis to enter the nailbed. The most common toenail fungus is contracted around public areas including swimming pools. A failure to practice the correct hygiene by keeping your feet clean and dry puts you at risk of sustaining a toenail fungus.
Toenail Fungus Treatments
How do you actually treat toenail fungus? Let’s take a look at the most effective and the most common.
First things first, to treat a toenail fungus requires the use of an antifungal agent. How you administer the treatment is the main difference. It’s possible to apply a treatment topically (i.e. directly to the area) or through an oral medication. There are also pharmaceutical treatments as opposed to more natural treatments.
Topical medication is the most common method of treating toenail fungus. Topical medications are a pharmaceutical treatment which you can either purchase online or through a prescription. You apply it in a way similar to a moisturizer. The nail absorbs the cream, but instead of it making the nail softer, it kills the fungal infection.
There are a number of different kinds of OTC toenail fungus cream. The problem with topical medication is that it takes repeat applications to reach through the cuticle. Since the infection is in the nail bed, you must make sure that the medication is properly absorbed. This will take repeat applications over the course of weeks and months.
A more modern therapy is laser treatment. Lasers are applied to the affected toenails assisting in targeting and eliminating the fungus. The laser burns the fungal spores. This stops them from being able to ‘reproduce’ and spread. You can either visit a laser treatment clinic or buy a laser pen online. Laser pens are weaker than medical grade equipment. However, they can do the same job—they just take longer.
Again, the problem with laser treatment is that it takes a long time to properly treat the nail bed. You have to make sure to use the laser repeatedly and regularly. This is the case even if there are no visible external signs of infection left.
It comes in the form of a tablet or capsule that you swallow, like other kinds of medication. They can both kill the fungal cells and prevent them from growing and spreading further. There are a number of oral supplements available online. If these aren’t for you, you could talk to your physician about a prescription.
Essential oils are a very popular choice for treating fungal nail infections. Not all essential oils for toenail fungus are ‘equal’. Some are good for treating problems with the airways, others for improving the complexion. Tea tree oil, however, is an effective antifungal agent. And this isn’t just according to this or that blog; it’s backed up by a genuine study.
All you have to do is apply it as you would a regular topical medication. Like all forms of fungal toenail treatment, it takes a long while to work. However, if you continue to apply it, it will work in the end. Orange, lemongrass, eucalyptus, and peppermint are also effective.
A healthy diet, supplements, and hydration will maintain a strong immune system.
You can use diet to manage chronic conditions including diabetes and hypertension. Immune health also helps prevent harmful infections spreading through the body. Therefore, if you needed to prevent further spread of your toenail fungus, controlling your diet will help.
For severe infections, a practitioner advises nail removal. This isn’t as simple as cutting your nail. Nail removal means full nail removal. This means that the entire nail is removed during surgery, and the nail bed is completely exposed. This allows the surgeon to completely remove any trace of fungus from both the nail and nail bed.
Nail removal is inadvisable for any but the most serious cases. Nail fungus can become very serious if left untreated for a long time. However, for a basic case of fungal toenails, one of the other methods above will be sufficient.
What Should I Do Now?
A toenail fungus causes unsightly nails including yellowing, streaked and broken cuticles. If left untreated, the infection may spread to remaining toenails and feet. Toenail infections are common, however, its adverse effects on physical health prove severe. Our first piece of advice is, therefore, to do something, no matter what it is. Pick one of the treatments above and use it, no matter which one you prefer.
The immune system plays an important role in preventing and combatting toenail fungal infections. Maintenance of immunity protects against bacteria and fungus entering through cracks in surrounding skin. It wards off harmful agents that cause the fungus to spread on areas of the body from your feet to your legs and back. The next thing you should do therefore is to strengthen your immune response with both diet and exercise.
Fortunately, there are plenty of treatments for toenail fungus available. A multitude of therapies from oral antifungal medication to creams and gels protect new cuticles. Incorporating alternative care with natural remedies soothes sensitive skin and painful toenails. If you have contracted a toenail fungus, and have left it growing unchecked for years, seeking medical care may be necessary.