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Causes of Toenail Fungus and How to Prevent It

Toenail fungus is a common condition that affects about 1 in every 10 people. Onychomycosis, the medical name for a fungal nail infection, usually begins as a white or yellow spot under the tip of the nail that can spread to the rest of the nail. Many cases of toenail fungus are benign, but that doesn’t mean getting a fungal infection on your toenail isn’t bothersome. No one wants toenail fungus, so understanding some of the common signs, causes, and ways to prevent toenail fungus is crucial for maintaining good foot and overall health.

Common signs of toenail fungus include:

  • Discolored toenails or nails that are yellow, brown, or white
  • Thickened or hardened toenails
  • Fragile or cracked toenails

Dermatophytes, a type of fungus, are the most common cause of fungal nail infections, but there are ways other than direct exposure to developing a fungal nail infection.

Some of the most common types of toenail fungus are:

  • Yeast and mold infections
  • Toenail injuries or toenail surgeries
  • Reduced blood circulation to the feet causing less immune coverage of the area
  • Foot fungus (Athlete’s foot) that starts in the feet and spreads to the toenails
  • Excessive foot sweat
  • Walking around barefoot in communal areas like gym locker rooms, showers, and swimming pools

While anyone can get toenail fungus, it is important to note that some people are at greater risk for developing fungal toenail infections. Older adults, individuals with a history of Athlete’s foot, people who visit locker rooms on a regular basis (i.e., gymgoers), and runners may have a higher chance of developing toenail fungus.

How to Prevent Toenail Fungus from Developing

Age, genetics, and lifestyle all play a role in why people may develop toenail fungus. That said, there are things you can do to prevent toenail fungus from developing. Some tips to avoid toenail fungus include:

  • Keep feet clean, dry, and moisturized with a natural daily foot cream.
  • Do not share nail clippers with other people.
  • When trimming your own nails or getting a pedicure at a nail salon, make sure to trim nails. straight across and smooth down edges with a file.
  • Wear sweat-absorbent socks made from breathable materials. This is especially important for long-distance runners, who tend to be prone to toenail fungal infections.
  • Wear shoes or flip flops in common areas like pools and locker rooms to avoid bacterial infections.
  • When getting a pedicure, make sure you go to a nail salon that uses new or sterilized tools for each customer.

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