Fungus on toenails can be anything from a mild embarrassment to a condition resulting in pain and disfigurement. The symptoms of toenail fungus present themselves in various ways, according to the type and the degree of infection. Some people with toenail fungus experience only a mild thickening or yellowing of the nail, while others may find their toenails crumbling, leaving the nail bed unprotected. There are several types that infect toenails, but the causes of the different types of toenail fungus are similar.
Moisture in Socks, Shoes, and the Environment
One common cause of toenail fungus is excessive moisture. Fungi grow best in habitats that are warm and moist, including damp shoes and socks. Wearing shoes with holes in the sides or the soles that allow socked feet to get wet is one example of excessive moisture that can cause toenail fungus. The longer the wet socks and shoes are worn, the more opportunity fungus has to develop on the nails and foot tissue.
Another cause of excessive moisture is wearing heavy, non-breathable socks that cause feet to sweat. The heavy socks trap in moisture, and feet may be damp for lengthy periods, allowing fungus to develop. Excessive moisture can also be the result of wearing shoes without wearing socks, as this can cause feet to perspire, promoting the growth of mold. Working in a very humid environment can also promote the growth of toenail fungus. Even if your feet aren’t sopping wet, being exposed to dampness day after day increases the risk of fungal infections, as fungi thrive in warm, moist conditions.
Athlete’s Foot is a condition that occurs on the toes and heels of the feet; it can affect hands also. Athlete’s Foot is caused by a fungal infection, and it causes the skin of the heels and toes to crack, flake, and peel. Severe cases can cause inflammation, burning, and oozing sores. Athlete’s Foot is quite contagious; exposure to socks, shoes, etc. of an infected person or using the same shower can cause the fungus to spread to others. Not only is Athlete’s Foot easy to spread to other people, but it is also easy for the fungus to spread from the toes and heels to the toenails.
Having a Compromised Immune System
Another leading cause of toenail fungus is having a weakened immune system. At the first sign of infection, a healthy immune system will attack the infection and remove it from the body. Toenails are already at a disadvantage because they do not benefit from the amount of blood circulation that fingers and other body parts get. This means that the body cannot detect problems in toenails as easily as in those parts that get better circulation. This coupled with a compromised immune system makes it very difficult to fight toenail infections. When the body detects the infection, it is usually too far gone for a weakened immune system to be able to take care of it. The infection has already had the opportunity to progress considerably.
There are several remedies and solutions to consider. Baking soda is considered good for treating toenail fungus at home. Tolnaftate has been shown effective in products like Keriderm toenail fungus cream. But one of the best preventive remedies is to keep feet dry and clean. Disinfect shoes and socks and ensure they are dry and clean before use (just like they do at the bowling alleys). In fact, some folks we have worked with use 3-4 pair of shoes, work boots and tennis shoes – rotating their use to allow bacteria a chance to die.