What Causes Toenail Fungus? 7 Reasons WHY People Get Infected
Toenail fungus is highly contagious and easy to get. It’s a very common nail condition that affects the lives of millions of American’s. Almost all fungal infections of the toenails are caused by dermatophytes. They lead to infection when you come in contact with things like clothing, socks, shoes, nail care tools, etc. The other two major reasons for fungal infections are yeasts and molds.
So, is toenail fungus caused by yeast? It certainly can be! Yeast is naturally present in the body, often known as candida. But, an overgrowth of yeast can cause nail fungus. This overgrowth has some unsightly symptoms, such as a buildup underneath the nail.
Many times, fungal infections are connected to our lifestyle choices. But, it can be something as simple as ‘catching’ it from another person or experiencing an injury to the toe. OTC treatments for toenail fungus are the same regardless of how it was caused. But, it is vital to know the reason so you can lower your risk and take preventative action.
Table of Contents:
- 1 What Are the Causes of Toenail Fungus?
- 1.1 Walking Barefoot in Public
- 1.2 Injury or Trauma to the Toenail
- 1.3 Circulatory Issues
- 1.4 Pedicures
- 1.5 Fake Nails
- 1.6 Immune Health
- 1.7 Athlete’s Foot
What Are the Causes of Toenail Fungus?
Curious about how you might have gotten a toenail fungus? Or, do you want to try and prevent it in the future? This guide will provide you with a comprehensive breakdown of the most common causes of fungal toenail infections.
Toenail fungus can range from mild to severe. It will not go away on its own and needs to be treated no matter what the cause. But, knowing the possible reasons can help you determine when you may have gotten the infection in the first place.
It can also help you to avoid those potential causes. There may be more reasons than you realize which is why it’s important to know them all. The more aware you are about how toenail fungus occurs, the better prepared you’ll be in the future.
So, let’s look at the main reasons people get this unsightly, yet common fungus.
Walking Barefoot in Public
Toenail fungus usually starts when moisture gets trapped underneath the nail. Walking barefoot in certain places makes it easy for this to happen. It’s also a contagious infection. So, when you walk without shoes or socks in public areas, you’re putting yourself at an even higher risk of ‘catching’ it.
Two of the most common areas are public showers and swimming pools. If germs are already on the floor of these areas and you’re walking around without protection on your feet, you could easily pick them up. It’s also easy for moisture to get trapped under your nails in places like this.
The best thing that you can do is to wear shoes or sandals of some kind. There are specialized ‘shower shoes’ that are available for public showers, but an inexpensive pair of flip-flops work just as well.
Walking barefoot can be beneficial for your toenails when it’s done in a safe, clean place. It gives your nails a chance to air out, so moisture doesn’t get trapped under the nail. But, walking around barefoot in the safety of your home and walking with no shoes on in public are two different things.
Whenever you’re walking on any public property, protect your feet as much as possible. A fungus can linger on surface areas for up to six months, making it incredibly easy to get a fungal infection without even realizing it.
Injury or Trauma to the Toenail
Two types of trauma can occur on the toenails are acute trauma and blunt trauma.
- Acute trauma occurs when the nail is affected over and over again. This typically happens with athletes and runners who wear ill-fitting shoes. Each time you take a step in a shoe that is too tight, you could be banging your toenails (especially the big toe) against the inside of the shoe.
- Blunt trauma occurs when something heavy falls on your toenails, or you bang them into something with a lot of force, like stubbing your toe. Even if it’s a one-time occurrence, you could instantly be more susceptible to toenail fungus. So, it’s crucial to keep track of how your toe looks after the injury. You may find that your toenails have turned black.
Both types of injury can be painful, but they can also contribute to yellow toenail fungus. Repetitive trauma tends to weaken the nails, which can make them more prone to infection. If blunt trauma damages the nail, it could put you at the same risk.
Sometimes these injuries can even cause the nail to split. A piece can break off, or the entire nail may fall off. In these cases, it’s essential to keep the nail bed clean, because it may be easier for toenail fungus to grow.
People with weak foot circulation, such as diabetics, have to be extremely careful to avoid problems like toenail fungus. Unfortunately, people with circulatory issues are more prone to foot conditions than others.
There are two strikes against people with circulatory conditions. First, it can make it difficult to notice issues going on with the feet and toenails. Diabetics often have nerve damage, so it’s harder to see damage in the toenails until it has gotten severe.
Poor circulation in the feet also tends to weaken the nails and affect the healing process. Your toenails become more susceptible to a fungal infection, and it may be even harder to treat it.
If you have circulatory issues, make sure that you examine your feet every day. You may find that a state-of-the-art Revitive Foot Circulation Machine can help. Look for any changes that might occur on a regular basis and keep track of how your toenails look. If you notice any yellowing or a bad smell coming from the nails, take action in treating the infection as quickly as possible.
Every woman enjoys getting a good pedicure or manicure. It’s a nice way to feel pampered and can make your nails look great. But, you could be putting yourself at risk for toenail fungus each time you get a professional pedicure at a salon. Like public showers or pools, nail salons can be breeding grounds for fungus if things aren’t appropriately sterilized.
The primary risk is in the tools a stylist uses to give you your pedicure. If the tools were recently used on someone with nail fungus, they could quickly spread that infection to you. Remember, a fungus can live on surfaces for months. Each time that specific tool is used, it could be spreading the infection more and more.
To avoid getting a toenail fungus from a pedicure, there are a few things you can do. First, try giving yourself home pedicures instead. There are many different kits you can use, as well as your own tools. You can also bring your own tools to your favorite salon for them to use. That way, you know where they’ve been and who has used them.
Or, you can go to a nail salon you trust when it comes to cleanliness and sanitation. You can even ask your pedicurist if the tools they are using were sterilized beforehand. A quality nail salon will always sterilize their tools between clients, so be sure to invest in a good salon instead of necessarily looking for a ‘good deal’ on a pedicure.
Along with getting a pedicure, using fake nails can cause nail fungus. Even if done professionally or you do them at home, fake nails can increase your risk of getting a fungal infection.
This is because fake nails don’t give your real nails a chance to breathe or air out. Since a fungus is caused by moisture getting trapped under the nail, not letting air get through is dangerous. Having fake nails is even more of a risk because a nail fungus could be growing underneath them.
You may not recognize the early symptoms because you won’t see them through your fake nails. By the time you might start to notice them, the signs will have likely turned severe, and you may even notice the fake nail lifting from the original nail.
Nail polish is also a frequent culprit that can increase your risk of getting a fungal infection. The reasons are similar; nail polish covers the nail and doesn’t allow air to circulate through. This makes it easy for moisture to get trapped underneath. If you love polishing your toenails, try to give yourself time with just your natural nails for a few days between each time you paint them.
Or, you can use an antifungal nail polish, such as Dr.’s Remedy Enriched Nail Polish. Nail polishes with antifungal properties can offer you the beautiful look you want while helping to keep toenail fungus at bay.
Unfortunately, toenail fungus can sometimes start from within. Some of the other causes listed in this guide may not affect someone who has a robust immune system as greatly as they would for someone who has a weakened immune system.
Your immune health is essential when it comes to fighting toenail fungus and preventing it in the first place. A suppressed immune system can be caused by anything from a poor diet to an underlying health condition or certain medications.
If your immune system is compromised and you get a nail fungus, it also makes it easy for that fungus to spread to other areas of your body and cause even greater health problems. Having strong immune health will make it easier for your body to fight off other potential causes.
Athlete’s foot and toenail fungus are often referred to as the same condition. While they are different, athlete’s foot can trigger a toenail fungus and vice versa. It is a fungal infection that grows on the skin. It is common between the toes and can create an itching and burning sensation.
If it’s left untreated, athlete’s foot can spread to the toenails and cause a fungal infection underneath them.
Athlete’s foot, as the name suggests, is most common among people who are more active like athletes, runners, etc. But, anyone can get it. The causes are almost like that of a nail fungus. You can either get it from another person or allow moisture to become ‘trapped’ in areas of the skin. Something as simple as walking barefoot on a locker room floor can trigger athlete’s foot.
Athletes are more at risk for this because of the environment they put their feet in on a regular basis. Tight shoes and sweaty socks are the perfect environment for fungus to thrive, both on the skin and underneath the toenails.
But, anyone who is prone to getting sweaty feet can be at risk for getting a toenail fungus this way. Sweating is a significant factor when it comes to how moisture can become trapped underneath the toenails.
The best thing to do if you’re infected is to treat athlete’s foot straight away, so it doesn’t spread to your toenails. Once an infection gets underneath the nails, it can take more time to heal and can even start to spread to other areas.
Is Toenail Fungus Contagious from Person to Person?
Toenail fungus is highly contagious. You can either get it from another person or something they used/wore. That’s why you should never share shoes or socks with someone who has had a foot fungus. Don’t share these things in general. Someone may not realize they have a toenail fungus right away, and if you use something of theirs, you could be putting yourself at risk of getting it.
Things like nail tools, towels, and nail polish should also be avoided when it comes to sharing them with others. If you live with someone who has a toenail fungus, be sure to wear shoes or sandals in areas where they may have been walking barefoot, such as the bathroom and shower.
Even if a toenail fungus looks like it has started to clear up, it can still be contagious. If you, yourself are dealing with a fungal infection under the toenails, steer clear of sharing items. Don’t let anyone touch your feet until the infection has completely cleared.
If you’re currently using a treatment solution, continue to use it for a few weeks even after it looks like the fungus is gone. Be sure to sterilize anything that came in contact with your feet before letting anyone else use it.
Who is in Danger of getting a Fungal Nail Infection?
Toenail fungus can happen to anyone, mainly because it’s so contagious. But, specific factors tend to make some people more susceptible than others.
If you fall into the following categories, you must take extra care of your feet:
- Diabetics: As you now know, people with poor foot circulation are more prone to having foot problems. This includes toenail fungus. Again, you should check out the general health of your feet every day if you have poor circulation and start treatment right away if you notice any signs of a fungal infection.
- Seniors: Age can play a part in the health of your toenails. Nails tend to become thicker as we age, but the immune system can also get weaker. Blood flow becomes slower as we age, and nails grow slower, too. It can also become harder to take care of our feet as often if mobility is a problem. The best thing you can do as you continue to get older is to have a great foot care routine in place. This includes making sure your feet and toes are clean, dry and moisturized. You can also regularly see a doctor or podiatrist to check out the health of your feet and toenails.
- Athletes: People who are regularly active are among the most susceptible to getting toenail fungus. Tight shoes, trauma to the nails, and poor ventilation can all add up to a perfect environment for a fungal infection. Athletes also often have sweaty feet, which only adds to that ideal environment. Some runners consider it normal to experience things like a black toenail or a nail that falls off. But, getting toenail fungus is something that should never be ignored or considered normal.
- People with Illness: If you have a weakened immune system, you may be more prone to fungal infections. So, if you have an underlying health condition, it’s imperative that you take extra care of your feet.
- People with a skin injury: If you ever get a skin injury around your toe(s), take care of it right away. Having an injury next to the nail can make it easy to contract a fungal infection if the right kind of bacteria starts to spread around. People with skin conditions like psoriasis can also be more prone to toenail fungus and the toenail separating from the nail bed.
- People in public areas: If you’re a swimmer, or work in a gym, you may be more prone to toenail fungus. Again, it can lurk on surfaces for months. If you frequently find yourself in public pools, gyms, or locker rooms, you’re automatically at a higher risk of contracting an infection of the toenails.
Can Toenail Fungus Cause Other Health Problems?
Toenail fungus won’t clear up on its own. Even if it doesn’t seem severe at first, it will continue to grow and thrive if no treatment is used. There are many different treatment options to choose from, but you have to do something to keep a fungal infection at bay. If you let a toenail fungus go, you could be putting more than just your feet at risk. What problems can untreated toenail fungus cause?
If it continues to spread, you could experience several complications, including:
- Infection: If a yellow toenail fungus can spread, it will start out by reaching other areas of your feet. As you now know, this is called athlete’s foot. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of athlete’s foot is cracking of the skin. If the skin on your feet begins to crack open, it puts you at a higher risk of bacteria getting inside. If the fungus or other bacteria can get into your bloodstream, it can cause an infection to spread throughout your body which can lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms.
- Pain: For the most part, toenail fungus doesn’t start out as something painful. That’s why many people choose to ignore it at first. But, it can become painful over time if you’re not treating it properly. Toenail fungus is a reason why your nails become thick and hard, which can make it difficult to walk without pain. Your nails can also become brittle and crumbly, which can cause them to snag on things like socks and pull away.
- Loss of the nail: One of the most significant risks you face in ignoring a toenail fungus is losing that nail completely. If too much of the fungus builds up underneath the nail, you may start to see the toenail lift away from the nail bed. In some cases, the nail will fall off on its own. If severe, a doctor may need to remove it. The exposed nail bed is then at a higher risk for bacteria to get in, and it can be painful if it starts bleeding. A new toenail can take months to grow back in, and it can be embarrassing and irritating to deal with in the meantime.
- Diabetes: Not treating a fungus won’t cause any life-threatening conditions. But, it can wreak havoc on people who have pre-existing medical conditions. People with diabetes, for example, tend to have weaker immune systems. If it spreads throughout their body, it can cause them to become quite ill. If you have any medical condition that has compromised your immune system, you may not be able to fight of toenail fungus as well as someone in a healthier state. That’s why It’s important to catch and treat toenail fungus right away.
How Do You Get Rid of Toenail Fungus?
There is good news when it comes to getting rid of toenail fungus. Because it’s such a common problem for so many people, there are a lot of different treatment options. Depending on the severity of your fungal infection, you can choose to see a podiatrist or doctor. They may give you an oral and topical antifungal prescription.
Most of the time, toenail fungus can be treated with an over-the-counter solution. One of the best treatment options is the Purely Northwest System. It uses natural ingredients and a foot soaking method to kill the fungus living underneath the toenails.
Many people choose to use home remedies to get rid of their fungal infections. Some work better than others, so it’s important to choose the right DIY solutions if you want to see results. Two of the best options for getting rid of toenail fungus at home are tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar.
Tea tree oil has antifungal properties. It also has antibacterial and antiseptic properties. Add a carrier oil and apply it directly to your toenails. It will kill the fungus at the root and prevent it from growing and spreading. Apple cider vinegar is also a potent antifungal agent. It helps to stop the fungus from spreading to other areas.
The most important thing to remember when you’re trying to get rid of a fungus is that it can take a long time. Whatever treatment solution you choose, make sure to keep it up until any signs of the infection are long gone.
How Can Toenail Fungus Be Avoided?
Because there are so many different ways to get a nail fungus, it can’t be prevented entirely. Even if you try to avoid all the triggers on this list, different types of yeast and mold can still find their way underneath your nails.
But, there are some things you can do to help lower your risk of getting toenail fungus. It doesn’t matter if you’re at a higher risk of getting it or not. Following these preventative tips can help everyone, and they can also help to keep you from spreading a toenail fungus if you already have it.
- Use antifungal sprays or powders in your shoes regularly, especially if you’re prone to getting toenail fungus.
- Avoid wearing the same shoes day after day. Switching them out will give each pair time to air out. This will create a tougher environment for fungus to grow.
- If you’re prone to sweaty feet, carry an extra pair of socks with you. Change into them halfway through the day or whenever you need to keep your feet dry. You can also buy socks designed to wick away moisture instead of holding onto it.
- Dry your feet extremely well after showering. This is vital if you share a bathroom space with someone else.
- Reduce how often you get artificial nails or use nail polish. Additionally, make sure you go to a nail salon you can trust for a pedicure.
- Trim your nails straight across and make sure that they are short. This will make it harder for a fungus to get trapped underneath.
- If you’ve touched your infected toenails, be sure to wash your hands immediately. Touching a toenail fungus and then touching other parts of your body could allow the infection to spread.
Though it’s not necessarily a preventative measure, something else you can do is always to pay attention to your feet. Feet and toes can be easy to ignore unless we start to feel pain or they become unsightly.
By keeping track of how your feet look and feel on a daily basis, you’re more likely to notice toenail fungus in its early stages. The earlier you can catch it, the easier it will be to treat. It will also likely take less time to clear up completely when you start treating it right away.
There is no one single cause of toenail fungus. While some people might be more susceptible to it than others, such as athletes, anyone can get it. Any of the reasons listed in this article can trigger a fungal infection.
Be aware of the symptoms of toenail fungus and take preventative measures. Though you may not be able to prevent a fungal infection from happening completely, you can lower your risk. Simply being aware of what can cause a toenail fungus can help you avoid getting one so easily.