Toenail Fungus – Causes and Prevention

Toenail fungus affects tens of millions of people each year in all walks of life. Almost ten percent of the people in the world will suffer from toenail fungus at some point in their lives.

Fungal infection of the toe nails, or onychomycosis, causes unsightly thick, yellowed nails and can often be painful. Many people with infected nails are too embarrassed to wear sandals or open-toed shoes in public. Effective treatments are available, but battling toenail fungus can be a lengthy and expensive process. Preventing the condition should be your goal. To prevent toenail fungus, you must know first understand the causes.

Underlying causes of fungal infection

Fungal infection of the toe nails and fingernails is typically caused by one of the fungi that belong to the group knows as dermatophytes. Mold and yeast can also sometimes be the cause of a toenail fungal infection. Each of these tiny organisms live and thrive in warm, moist environments, like showers and swimming pools.

These organisms are so microscopic that they can sneak in through nearly any opening in your skin, including an undetectable cut or a small gap between your nail and nail bed. While these fungi only multiply when they get the warmth and moisture they require to grow, your feet can provide exactly the environment the fungi need to thrive.

Risk factors for toenail fungus

Almost everyone comes into contact with the micro-organisms that cause fungal infections of the toenails. Why do some people get it and others don’t?

First, nail fungus is more common among older adults. As people age, they may have diminished blood circulation to bring the body’s immunity defenses to the toes, more years of exposure to the micro-organisms that cause the infection and nails which grow more slowly, making them more prone to infection. Studies also show that there are genetic factors involved. Finally, men are more likely than women to have toenail fungus.

Many of the contributing causes of toenail fungus are within your control, however.

These risk factors include:

  • Poor foot hygiene
  • Heavy foot perspiration
  • Footwear that retain moisture
  • Walking barefoot in places likes public showers and locker rooms
  • Cuts on your feet or damaged toenails
  • Diabetes, HIV or circulatory problems which hamper the immune system

Preventing toenail fungus

To lower your chances of getting toenail fungus, keep your feet clean and dry. Wash your feet often, and change your socks frequently. Rotate your shoes to give them a chance to dry thoroughly. Avoid footwear made of materials than don’t “breathe.”

Treat any minor skin injuries on your feet promptly and avoid exposure to likely breeding places when your feet are most prone to fungal infection. Wear shower shoes or other protective footwear in public places like swimming pools, locker rooms and public showers.

Toenail fungus is tough to wipe out, so your top aim should be prevention. But if you do see the tell-tale signs of fungus in your feet, seek a toenail fungus treatment early to get rid of the fungus before it becomes deeply rooted. One infected toenail can quickly infect others and your toenail infection can easily spread to the feet of family members.