Nail Fungus – What Causes It and How to Prevent It

Nail Fungus, or onychomycosis affects over 30 million Americans alone. This disfiguring and sometimes painful nail infection can be very difficult to get rid of. It will not heal itself and even when treated it may take up to a year to fully restore your nails to a normal, healthy state! Knowing that, you can see that it's really important to be able to recognize it and seek treatment early.

The first sign of a nail fungus infection may be a small white or yellow spot on the nail that is spreading. You may also notice nail thickening. The infected becomes dull and has no luster. As it advances it becomes brittle and the edges of your nail may start to crumble. It may be discolored from buildup under the nail. You nail may even separate and come off and make it difficult to go about your daily routine (and painful).

Fungi grow in moist, dark places. Your nails actually provide a good barrier against infection – unless they are compromised. Then that same barrier works to shelter and enable the fungus to grow and thrive.

Let's look at some of the causes of nail fungus:

Walking barefoot in public places like gyms, locker rooms, shower stalls, swimming pools, etc. – It is contagious!

Perspiration creates a moist condition that fungus likes.

Wearing cotton or wool socks that do not absorb sweat well.

Wearing heavy, tight shoes or shoes that do not allow much air to circulate.

Artificial nails or nail polish create a dark, sheltered environment that fungus thrives on.

Nail biting – a big "no-no" – creates small injuries around your nail that practically invite the fungus to come in!

Diabetes and other diseases with circulatory problems.

How can you prevent getting nail fungus in the first place? Since you know some of the causes, let's consider commonsense measures to avoid the problem:

Keep your nails short and cut them straight across.

Dry thoroughly – especially between the toes.

Wear the right socks that absorb the sweat- a synthetic type.

Change socks during the day – more often if you sweat a lot.

Wear open- toed shoes or ones that let more air circulate.

Take your shoes off throughout the day.

Use antifungal spray or powder.

Use protective footwear when using public showers, pools, etc.

Wear rubber gloves to protect fingernails.

Make sure your nail salon sterilizes their tools if you get a manicure or pedicure.

Do not wear artificial nails or nail polish.

Do not use other peoples emery boards, nail files, etc.

Do not pick at the skin around your nails.

Absolutely NO nail biting!

Be aware of contagion – disinfect with bleach in the bathtub if someone else in your house has an infection.

Using commonsense and being aware of what can cause nail fungus is your best chance of avoiding it. Again, if you suspect you might have – do not wait to treat it. It WILL get a lot worse if you just ignore. See a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment plan.