What Causes Toe Nail Fungus?

Toenail fungus, also known as Onychomycosis, is often caused by organisms know as dermatophytes.  These fungus organisms also cause athlete’s foot.  Rarely, yeasts and molds can also infect the nails causing nail fungus.  Toenail fungus infections are more common than fingernail infections because our feet are often in a dark, moist environment most of the day.   So, how and why do we get nail fungus infections? 

Walking Barefoot:  Particularly in public places that may stay damp for long periods like pools, locker rooms and workout facilities. These are high traffic areas where toe nail fungus can easily be passed from one person to another.

Athletes’ Foot:  Fungus infection of the skin between and around the toes is known as athlete’s foot. This same fungus can attack and infect the nails causing toenail fungus.

Excessively Sweaty Feet:  Any increase in moisture combined with being in a closed shoe all day promotes an environment where nail fungus can flourish.

Diabetes, Poor Circulation and Other Immune Disorders:  These conditions predispose people to nail fungus infections because the body’s immune system is compromised.  

Injury/Damage to Nails:  If your nail gets damaged or cracked, that can result in the nails being separated from the skin along the edges and under the front of the nail. This allows an entry point for the fungus, which can flourish and multiply within and under the surface of the nail. This can include aggressive pedicures and manicures.

Family History/Genetics:  Yes, you can be predisposed to getting a nail fungus based on family history. Always check your family medical records to know if you'r at-risk of getting nail fungus.

Age:  It is true, the older we get the more likely we are to get nail fungus. Toenail fungus is more common because the nails naturally become thicker, more brittle and take longer to grow out making the toenails more susceptible to toenail fungus.

Sharing:  Unfortunately sharing is not always caring. If you have nail fungus, other family members should not use the same nail cutting/filing implements. This can transfer fungus to others. Also, wearing someone else’s shoes, especially without socks, can transfer fungus from one person to another.

Nail fungus, and in particular toenail fungus, is becoming more prevalent in the population as it ages.  Being aware of how and why we get nail fungus infections can help you prevent this from occurring in your nails.