What Causes Toenail Fungus?

Fungus on a toenail? Really? Is it even possible? Yes, it sure is. Read on to know what causes toenail fungus and everything related to it!

The article discusses what toenail fungal infection is, what causes toenail fungus, what are its symptoms, and how can you prevent toenail fungus infection.

What is Toenail Fungal Infection?

Toenail fungus is a widespread fungal nail infection of the nail. It starts as a white or yellow-brownish spot under the lower tip of your toenails or fingernails.

As the fungal nail infection goes deeper, the fingernails or toenails start to discolour, thicken and crumble at the edge. Toenail fungal infection can affect several other nails as well.

If the condition of your toenail fungus is light and not bothering you, then it is unnecessary to have a fungal infection treatment. But if your nail fungal infections are painful and severe and have caused thickened infected nails, then self-care steps and oral antifungal medication may help.

Even if the treatment is successful, this nail fungus grows back if you do not deal with its specific treatment options. Toenail or nail fungus is also known as onychomycosis.

Toenail fungus
Source: Jonathan Zerger/Unsplash Copyright 2018

What are the Symptoms of Toenail Fungal Infection?

The following are the symptoms of toenail fungus, which include:

  • Thickened infected nail
  • Discoloured or brownish toenail
  • A brittle, crumbly, or ragged infected nail.
  • Irregular affected nail.
  • The nail cuticle separated from the nail bed.
  • The foul smell of nails.

Fungal nail infection can affect fingernails, but it’s common in the surrounding skin of toenails. When this toenail fungus infects the areas between your toes skin and the skin of your feet, it’s known as athlete’s foot (tinea pedis).

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Tinea Pedis-Image from Shutterstock.com

What Causes Toenail Fungus?

So, what causes toenail fungus? Toenail fungal infections are caused by various fungi, yeast, bacteria, and moulds. Fungal nail infections may also cause contact from places where fungi thrive, such as public swimming pools, public showers, gyms, locker showers, and sweaty shoes.

Essentially, yeast, mould, bacteria, and dermatophyte are the three forms of fungi that can infect toenails.

A dermatophyte infection is typically yellow, a yeast toenail generally is white, a mould infection is typically a drab brown, and a bacterial skin infection is green or black.

Before attempting any drastic prescription medication measures for treating toenail fungus, it is crucial to identify your precise type because each of these causes has different treatment options to prevent fungal infections. You can explore this thread on what causes toenail fungus.

Toenail fungus
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Types of Toenail Infections

There are different types of toenail fungus, but the most common are as follows:

1. Yeast Infection

Candida albicans, a yeast, can infect the toenails. This condition, where a widespread Candida infection affects the scalp, lips, body, and nails, is uncommon since it primarily affects young children with a weakened immune system disease caused by a genetic mutation.

2. White Islands

A superficial toenail fungal infection that can progress to the nail bed and cause foggy “white islands” to form on the nails is incredibly prevalent and can also affect fingernails.

3. Distal Toenail Infection

When the toenail lifts off the nail bed, the fungus can enter the tissue and cause toenail fungal infection. This is the most common reason for toenail infection, this is a disorder that can be caused by donning too-tight shoes.

4. Proximal Toenail Infection

Often observed in persons with immune system-compromising diseases, the fungus can occasionally infiltrate the nail bed from the cuticle region.

These fungal nail infections can be treated with several oral antifungal medications, at-home treatments, and in severe cases, through surgery.

How to Prevent Toenail Fungal Infection?

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Now that you know what causes toenail fungus, let’s head on to another segment of the article. There is no guarantee that you will never get a toenail fungal infection. But you can take several measures to help prevent it:

1. Prevent Walking Barefoot

Prevent walking barefoot in communal areas such as locker rooms, public showers, communal gyms, and public swimming pools.

Most people get this fungal infection in these types of situations. So, to prevent happening this infection, wear flip-flops in public areas.

2. Do not Share Items of a Family Member who Suffers from Infection

Aim to use a different shower or wear flip-flops in your shower if you have a family member who suffers from a fungal nail infection to prevent communication.

3. Clean Your Nail Clippers

Before using your nail clippers, clean them thoroughly with an antifungal remover mist.

Toenail fungus
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4. Don’t Rip or Injure Your Nail

Do not purposely or deliberately rip or tear your toenails because it can injure your nail beds, so try to prevent it.

5. Dry Your Feet After Shower

Dry off your feet, after taking a shower, Be gentle and careful in completely drying your feet, so it would not lock moisture in the areas where fungi thrive.

6. Soften Your Nails Before Trimming

When trimming your toenails or fingernails, soak them in warm water, then trim them carefully. Otherwise, trim your nails straight, don’t round them after a shower, as it would wet your toes and help you easily trim your nails perfectly.

7. Avoid Nail Injury

Do not aggressively trim your nails; avoid nail injury because it can open up space in your nail bed for fungal infection and for fungi to thrive in these areas and cause permanent damage.

8. Wear the Right Shoes

Put on shoes that fit properly, the areas surrounding the toes shouldn’t be extremely loose or tight.

9. Avoid Sweaty Feet

Avoid sweaty feet, which are common signs of a higher risk of fungal nail infection, so keep your feet dry.

10. Take Care of Your Health

If you have diabetes, heed all advice from your doctor or other healthcare professionals on foot care, take gentle care of your nails, and try as much as possible to prevent fungal nail infections.

Over-the-Counter Products for Treatment 

If you believe you have foot fungus, consult a doctor. It might be difficult to get rid of and can cause permanent damage but getting an over-the-counter product prescription increases your chances of success.

Treatments include:

1. Oral Medications

The most effective method for treating a nail infection is typically this. Your healthcare provider might prescribe an oral medication to eradicate the fungal infection throughout your body.

For a disorder in your fingernails, the remedy may last 2 months; for a pest in your toenails, it may last for about 3 months.

2. Topical Medications

These antifungal creams are applied to your nails using a rub or a brush. They might be effective for a little infection, but they cannot penetrate the nail deeply enough to treat more potentially serious complications.

Take your oral medication while using topical medication to get better results.

3. Surgery

During this protocol, the foot doctor might have to exclusively remove your entire nail to permit a new healthy nail to grow back in its place.

If the prior treatment option doesn’t work, the infection could spread to the other toenails.

4. Photodynamic or Laser Treatments

Doctors are researching newer effective treatment options for fungus-killing therapies employing specialized light.

Nail fungus
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At-Home Treatment Options for Reducing the Chances

You can take care of a fungal nail infection at home with several measures keeping in mind:

  • Try over-the-counter products such as antifungal nail creams and other antifungal ointments on the infected nails. Several products, such as terbinafine (Lamisil), are available in markets for your aids.
  • If you discover some white markings on the coverings of the nails, shave them off, absorb your nails in warm water, dehydrate them thoroughly, and then refer to the antifungal cream or lotion for the infected regions.
  • If this patch cleans up your symptoms, it is likely for the toenail fungal infection to come around.
  • Trim and thin your nails: This procedure helps reduce the pain and gives you a little pain relief by reducing pressure on the nails.
  • Antifungal medications can reach deeper nail plates if you perform this before applying your creams. And assist your nails in coping with the infection greatly.
  • Before cutting off or using a nail file to thin-thick nails, thaw your nails with urea-containing salves. See a healthcare provider if you have a situation that causes poor blood circulation to your feet.
  • According to some analyses, the dietary vitamin biotin can assist in reinforcing the fingernails that are fragile or vulnerable. If you have any interrogations or concerns about whether this is a reasonable course of action for you, communicate with your healthcare provider.
  • Additionally, some analyses demonstrate that tea tree oil has antifungal properties. Toenail fungus is frequently treated with it.

6 Effective HOME REMEDIES To CURE Toenail FUNGUS | Holistic Toenail Fungus Cures Part 2 | Dr. Kim

When Does it Become Important to Consult a Doctor?

It becomes important to consult a healthcare provider if the prevention steps haven’t been successful and the nail becomes discoloured, thickened, or misshaped due to circulation problems.

Also, have a thorough session with your doctor when you ask him what causes toenail fungus if you have:

  • Diabetes and thinking you have developed nail fungal infection due to your healthcare condition.
  • Bleeding around the toenail nail plate and other fingernails due to minor injury.
  • Swelling or excruciating pain around the entire nail.
  • Having problem with walking.

The Risk Highlights for Toenail Infection

Some factors that can increase your chances of developing toenail fungus include:

1. Age

Older adults have much more chances of getting toenail fungus, you might even observe in your homes that it is the adults who usually ask what causes toenail fungus.

2. Wearing Tight Shoes

Donning shoes that provoke your feet to sweat profoundly are prone to toenail infection.

3. Athlete’s Foot

If you had athlete’s foot in history.

4. Walking Barefoot

Strolling barefoot in damp communal areas, such as the public swimming pool, locker room, and public shower is risky.

5. Nail Injury

Obtaining a minor or major nail injury can lead to toenail infection.

6. Skin Infection

Retaining a skin infection ailment that may also influence the nail can develop toenail infection.

7. Internal Disfunction

Diabetes, circulation difficulties, or a weakened immune system may also boost your possibility of being contaminated with a fungal nail infection.

Source: andreas160578 / pixabay Copyright 2016

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the main cause of toenail fungus?

Many people catch the fungi through skin-to-skin exposure to a person who suffers from fungal conditions, such as foot infection or ringworm.

2. Is toenail fungus serious?

The majority of infections caused by fungi are not dangerous. Some people, however, may feel pain or be concerned by the way it looks. It’s better to contact a doctor in either of the cases.

3. What kills toe fungus the fastest?

There are several cures for toenail fungus, some of which are more effective than others. Toenail laser treatment is the quickest technique for curing the infection.


We hope you got the answer to what causes toenail fungus. Innumerable people get toenail fungal infections, including athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) and toenail fungus (onychomycosis). Hot, humid, moist environments and constrictive footwear encourage fungal infections.

One should follow the necessary precautions to weaken the possibility of contracting an infection. If someone sees changes to the skin or nails on their feet, they should consult a healthcare provider immediately to guarantee antifungal treatment options.

Alas, who wants fungus on any part of their body? Stay safe and healthy!

Last Updated on by gourvigupta



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