Toenail fungal infection, alternatively called onychomycosis or tinea unguium, is a condition that affects the toenails. The condition is caused by a dermatophyte fungus that infects the nail and the surrounding areas. The infection causes nail discoloration, crumbling, thickening, and sometimes, foul odor. In worst cases the infection may cause onycholysis, or the separation of the nail from the nail bed.
The infection usually affects the feet of people who often spend too much time in moist, unsanitary environments. However, there are other possible causes of the infection.
Causes of infection
People with weak immune system, the diabetic, and the elderly are reportedly more prone to the infection. A lesser amount of blood flows in the feet and lesser antibodies are developed by the body against the fungal attack.
Generally, however, toenail fungus infection does not select victims. Fungi are aerobic microorganisms that do not need sunlight to survive. This is why places like the insides of your dark, moist, shoes are suitable habitats of these microorganisms. The infection begins when the fungi enter the area under the nail.
The surface dead skin tissues of toes serve as a source of energy for the fungi. When left unattended, having poor feet hygiene may increase one’s chances of acquiring the infection. Although toenail fungi only typically affect nails, if left untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of the body like the genitals, other toenails, and even fingernails. It can also trigger more serious problems such as bacterial infection in the already affected toenails.
So if fungi do not require much resources to live, and that it can spread to other parts of the body, does that mean that the infection may be transmitted to others? Is toenail fungus contagious? The answer is yes.
In addition to poor hygiene, toenail infection may be acquired through both direct and indirect physical contact with people who have it. Wearing the footwear of people who have toenail fungus is a transmission risk and a big no-no. Constant sanitation is recommended for people who live with family members who have the infection and cannot avoid contact.
Other potential sources of the infection are located outside the house. Nail salons that do not have proper sanitation of manicure or pedicure equipment may also be sources of the toenail fungus. Warm and moist communal areas, such as gym shower rooms or public swimming pools, are also highly susceptible to the fungal infection. These can be combatted by seeking the nail salon services of trusted professionals, while wearing your own clean footwear in public areas will keep your feet safe and sanitary.
Treatment for toenail fungus infection depends on the severity the condition. In most cases, the infection may be healed by a topical cream or a topical lacquer. Most of these are available over the counter. Choosing this method of medication is relatively more affordable but requires more time.
If you consult a doctor, you might be advised to take antifungal prescription pills. This method of treatment is more preferable as sometimes, topical medicine may not penetrate the hard exterior of nails.