More often than not people don’t take nail fungus seriously, as the majority of the people are unaware of this disease. Toenail fungus can live undetected on the nail bed for many months, which increases the risk of spreading it.
Toenail infections are caused by different types of fungi, yeast and mold. The most common fungi involved in nail infections are Trichophyton rubrum and Tricyphyton mentagraphyte. These organisms actually live on the body and can quickly become a problem for their host under the right condition. These fungi like warm moist environments such as the shoes, public areas like gym locker rooms, shower rooms and swimming pools.
Is nail fungus contagious?
Fungal nail infections are in fact contagious, but not in any way that should cause panic. Generally, in healthy people, the immune system will defend the body from infection and repel these fungi, even if they come into contact with the skin or the nail.
Fungal infections commonly spread from the nail to the skin and vice versa. It’s also no accident that if you have nail fungus on one toe that you’ll develop it on other toes; however, some may remain entirely uninfected. Nail fungus is a slow progressive disease and the damage to the nail increases to a greater degree over time and the longer you have it.
How do you prevent fungus?
- Public spas, swimming pools, showers, and locker rooms are all high risk areas where fungi are more likely to be picked up. Avoid these high risk areas during treatment if possible, and if you do visit these areas, protect yourself by wearing flip flops, washing your hands and feet thoroughly, and drying them afterwards.
- Don’t pick at the skin around your toes. Cuts and open wounds are one way the fungus gains access to the nail bed. If you get manicures and pedicures, make sure you go to a reputable salon that sterilizes the instruments they use. While you may want to hide unsightly nails under a coat of polish, doing so can unwittingly trap moisture in the nail and make the problem worse
- Wash your feet frequently, and keep them dry. Wear cotton socks to absorb the sweat from your feet. Change your socks frequently to keep them dry and fresh.
- If you have a problem with sweaty feet, make sure you wear shoes that allow for plenty of ventilation. Use medicated foot powders to minimize moisture and kill any fungus that may be hanging around. Keep your toenails short and clean, and always wash your hands after touching an infected nail.
- Wear shoes that are comfortable, and allow adequate air circulation.
- Keep your nails cut short, and avoid using nail polish while you have an infection.
- Avoid sharing towels, shoes, and other items. This is especially important to prevent transmission to family members.
- Stay healthy, and keep your immune system strong.
Are some people more susceptible?
- An active lifestyle can often expose a person to situations where contact with fungus is more likely.
- Genetic and health factors can make infection more likely.
- People 55 years or older are more susceptible.
- People with diminished blood circulation are more susceptible.
- People with previous or existing injury or infection of the nail are more susceptible.
- People with a weakened immune system (immune suppressed, diabetes, arthritis, etc.) are more susceptible.