Causes of Toenail Fungus - Tracking Down Culprits

Robert G. Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

Causes of fungusYou’ve probably seen infected nails before, or are at least aware of the signs. Brittle, discolored, thickened nails are unsightly and can actually be painful as they worsen. However, if you suddenly discover these changes in your nails, you may have questions. What causes the infection? Where did you contract the problem? The specific causes of toenail fungus and where it comes from can vary.

The Culprit

Toenail fungus is caused by a kind of microscopic fungi—the same pathogen that causes athlete’s foot. The micro-organisms are typically from a family called dermatophytes, though they could also be molds or yeasts. The invader enters the space under your nails through small cuts around them, or when the hard tissue separates slightly from the nail bed. Once under the nail, if the conditions are right, the fungus will fester and grow.

Fungi needs a warm, moist atmosphere to survive. Sweaty feet, especially if they are usually kept in shoes, are particularly vulnerable. Poor circulation and pre-existing conditions that weaken the immune system, like diabetes, also increase your chances of developing this problem. Age plays a role as well; the older you are, the harder it is for your body to fight invaders.

The Location

The culprits of toenail fungus actually exist in the environment around you, so you could have picked up the problem almost anywhere. The infection is highly contagious, so it can easily pass to others through direct contact. Most people end up with toenail fungus after being exposed to surfaces, objects, or skin contaminated by the pathogen.

The most common place to catch this infection is in a public area where plenty of people have walked around in bare feet. Other environments with warm, damp atmospheres like swimming pools, public restrooms, locker rooms, hotel carpets, even and saunas are all prime breeding grounds for this invader. Typically, they continue to grow and multiply in the fabric of your socks and shoes, too. Walking barefoot in a public place or sharing shoes with an infected person are among the most common causes of toenail fungus.

The Solution

Toenail fungus is hard to eliminate, especially the longer you let it fester. The sooner it’s addressed, however, the more easily and quickly it can be eradicated. Dr. Robert Parker and the expert team here at Parker Foot & Ankle will evaluate your toes to confirm that your nail condition is indeed a fungal infection.

Once the condition is officially diagnosed, you can begin treatment. You’ll need to both eliminate the problem under your nails as well as in your shoes and socks to prevent the condition’s spread and eliminate reinfection. Topical and oral medications work well, especially when used together. Laser nail therapy, however, is one of our specialties. We can discuss what options will be most helpful for your feet and implement a plan to restore your toes.

The causes of toenail fungus and where you became infected may vary, but treating the condition quickly relies on timely remedies. Don’t wait and allow the problem to fester—or risk passing it to someone you care about. Contact Parker Foot & Ankle in Houston, TX, for an appointment or for more information to take care of your toes. You can reach our office by calling (281) 497-2850 or by using our website contact page.