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Fungal infections can affect any part of the body, including your toenails. Toenail fungus is a common problem, and although it’s not life-threatening and harmful, it can affect a person’s confidence. Although this infection is stubborn, it is entirely possible to treat it successfully. In order to manage and prevent future infections, it is necessary to learn more about their causes. Throughout this post, you’re going to learn what causes toenail fungus and how to minimize the risk of getting it.
Why we have toenail fungus?
Infection is defined as an invasion and multiplication of microorganisms such as viruses, parasites, and bacteria that are not normally found in the body. Infections can be asymptomatic, i.e., without symptoms or they may be manifested by different changes in affected organ, tissue, or body part.
All parts of a human body can be affected by infections, and nails aren’t the exception. Nails are prone to fungal infections, but toenails are more vulnerable than fingernails.
You’re probably wondering what causes nail fungus in the first place. Onychomycosis, also called tinea unguium, is a medical term for fungal infection affecting your fingernails and toenails, although the latter are more prone to it (as mentioned above).
It’s easy to develop this problem if you already have an infection in your foot. That way, the fungus can spread to one or more of your nails.
A person can also catch toenail fungus infection in a warm or moist place like a locker room or pool deck. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is enough to walk barefoot in an area where someone with fungal infection walked in order to catch it yourself.
One of the most common toenail fungus causes is having wet nails for a prolonged period of time. For example, if you wear the same pair of sweaty shoes or boots day in a day out, the risk of developing the infection increases significantly.
Wet and moist environments cause these fungi to multiply and overpopulate, which can cause scaling, crumbling corner or tip of the nail and other symptoms.
Toenail fungal infections don’t develop out of the blue, they form over time, and it is difficult to notice them at first. The infection itself starts due to ingrown fungi found under, in, or on the nail.
Are you at risk of toenail fungus?
Now that you know what causes toenail fungus (overgrowth of fungi in, on, or under the nail), it is crucial to address common risk factors that increase your odds of developing this problem. Many situations and even some health-related issues can cause toenail fungus. This only confirms there is a lot we still need to learn about this common infection.
As seen above, having toes wet for an extended period of time or swimming in a pool, walking barefoot in an area where someone else with this infection walked increases your risk of toenail fungal infection significantly. Below, you can see some other factors:
- Diabetes – fungal infections are a common problem in persons with diabetes. What’s more, it is estimated that one-third of all diabetic people have nail fungus compared to 10% of general population. Men with diabetes are three times as likely as diabetic women to develop this problem. What causes nail fungus in diabetic patients? The underlying reason is poor blood circulation and impaired nerve function in your feet. As a result, the ability to feel pain is decreased thus leaving you more prone to trauma which damages toenails and surrounding skin.
- Poor blood flow – weak blood circulation affects the extremities first. When the blood flow is impaired, the body’s immune system becomes less effective in fighting infections. This allows the fungus to overpopulate and infection to develop without any “disturbance.” Diminished blood flow is also the primary reason why toenail fungus is present in elderly so often. Older individuals have a poor blood flow.
- Weakened immune system – your immunity can be affected by poor blood flow and other causes. When the immune system is weak, it becomes unable to fight off infections effectively, which explains why fungus spread and affect your entire nail.
- Other causes – besides moist and wet environments, diabetes, poor blood flow, and weak immunity, other factors can contribute to toenail fungal infections such as having a nail injury, skin injury around the nail, wearing closed-toe shoes (especially if they’re wet and sweaty for extended periods of time).
Fungal infections are very common, and they mostly affect a person’s feet. One precise answer to question “what causes toenail fungus” doesn’t exist because multiple factors play a role. This stubborn infection can be treated successfully.