Amanda Roberts is a professional blogger and a podiatry student. She is an enthusiast who loves to write on several niches, particularly in foot health, including plantar fasciitis, toenail fungus, foot massage and reflexology. Read more about her blog posts on foot health at Feet Remedies. You can follow her on Facebook.
Toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, is a very common condition that begins as a yellow or white patch under the affected toenail. Fungus can attack your nails through the opening between the nail and nail bed or minor cuts in the skin around the nail. This infection may not cause serious problems in healthy people but may hurt, look bad, or damage your nail completely. Nail infections are caused by the same fungi that cause ringworm, athlete’s foot, and jock itch. If you have come in contact with a person who has a fungal infection, it may spread easily to your body.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the signs and symptoms of toenail fungus include thickened, brittle, and crumbly toenail. You may also notice a dark color, caused by dirt or debris gathering up under the infected nail. Toenail fungus may lead to more serious problems if you have a weak immune system or diabetes. If you have one of these conditions, visit your doctor to determine the best way to get rid of the nail infection.
Common Causes of Toenail Fungus
Fungal nail infections are typically caused by a type of fungi called dermatophytes. The word comes from the Greek terms “derma,” meaning skin, and “phytos,” meaning plant. This term is the label used for pathogenic fungi that can thrive on skin, causing skin infections. They can be caught through direct contact, walking barefoot in public areas like swimming pools, locker rooms, gyms, or sharing infected toenail clippers and clothing.
Other organisms that can cause nail fungus include:
Yeasts: Fungal nail infections caused by yeast affect not only nails but also the tissues around the nail. According to Healthline, yeast is naturally present in the body, but when they over grow due to antibiotics, birth control pills or immune system problems, an infection can develop.
Non-dermatophyte mods: These microorganisms are the leading cause of nail fungus in individuals who have HIV.
Here are different factors that contribute to the development of toenail fungus and other feet fungal infections.
One of the leading causes of toenail fungus and fungal skin infections is footwear. Wearing ill-fitting and constrictive shoes increases the chances of getting fungal infections. Tight shoes, especially those causing excessive sweating and jammed toes should be avoided as fungus thrives in warm and moist areas.
It is best to wear comfortable shoes made of breathable fabric to prevent the growth of fungi. Always keep your feet clean and dry to get rid of microorganisms that may be present on your skin. You can also sprinkle antifungal powder inside your shoes. This will also reduce moisture and lower the risk of fungal infection.
2. Athlete’s Foot
People with athlete’s foot have higher chance of getting fungal nail infections. The fungus can easily spread from the skin to toenails. To prevent this, wear shoes or sandals that allow your feet to breathe. You can also apply antifungal powder on your feet and wear sweat-absorbing socks.
3. Walking Barefoot in Public Facilities
Fungi thrive in warm and moist places. They can easily spread from one person to another. One can develop a fungal nail infection by simply walking barefoot in public areas like swimming pools, communal showers, saunas and locker rooms as fungi may contaminate the area.
4. Poor Circulation
Individuals who have poor circulation problems are more likely to get toenail fungus. Those who have diabetes will suffer from poor blood flow to lower extremities, increasing the risk of developing fungal infection. Feet fungal infections are prevalent in older individuals due to their lower resistance to these conditions and reduced blood flow.
5. Suppressed Immune System
Those with compromised immune system such as individuals who have AIDS are susceptible to viral, bacterial, parasitic and fungal infections. Certain medications can also weaken one’s immune system and increase the chances of getting toenail fungus. These medications include:
Corticosteroids – Medications for treating conditions like asthma, arthritis, allergic reactions, inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmune diseases.
TNF inhibitors – Medications used for treating autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
6. Trauma or Injuries
Injuries or trauma is also one of the common causes of toenail fungus. Athletes are more likely to develop an infection as they have a higher risk of trauma and injuries. Any type of wound, even just a minor cut, allows microscopic fungus to enter the skin and nail bed. The fungus will also tend to develop faster if the cut is not cleaned and treated immediately.
Those who wear tight footwear have a higher chance of getting fungal infection as well as plantar fasciitis as they are more likely to suffer from trauma and injuries.
7. Living with Someone Who Has Nail Fungus
Another factor that can increase your risk of getting toenail fungus is if you are living with someone who has such condition. By knowing how the infection spreads, you can take preventive measures to avoid getting a fungal infection.
How To Treat Toenail Fungus
For mild cases of fungal nail infection, you can use simple home remedies to get rid of the fungus.
Over-the-counter antifungal nail ointments and creams – If there are visible white spots on the surface of your toenail, apply medicated lotion or cream. If you have athlete’s foot, you can use medicated sprays or powder. Keep feet clean and dry to prevent the infection from spreading.
Vicks VapoRub – Another useful treatment for fungal nail infection is Vicks VapoRub. Simply apply a small amount of this product every day using a cotton swab.
Keep your nails short – This will help by alleviating pressure on the nails. It will also allow antifungal creams or lotions to reach the areas under the nail.
Apple Cider Vinegar – It contains acidic properties that can inhibit the infection from spreading while killing both fungi and harmful bacteria.
Tea Tree Oil – It contains antiseptic and antifungal properties, making it effective in getting rid of toenail fungus. It is also useful for treating other skin infections, such as athlete’s foot and eczema.
Baking Soda – This readily available staple is also useful for treating nail fungal infections. It can neutralize foot odor and remove excess moisture from your feet. You can also sprinkle some baking soda inside your shoes to reduce excessive sweating.
Oregano Oil – This oil contains antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral and antibacterial properties, making it effective in treating fungal infections.
If over-the-counter and self-care medications do not work, your doctor may suggest nail removal or laser and light-based therapies.