What is Toenail fungus and how do you get it?
Toenail fungus, known by physicians as Onychomycosis, affects about half of Americans by the age of 70. It is actually relatively rare in kids, but the incidence increases as we grow older. It is a living organism that thrives in dark, damp environments such as under and around nails. Fungus infections occur when microscopic fungi gain entry by way of a small trauma in the nail. The nail itself provides a protective covering that allows the fungus to grow underneath. An accumulation of keratinous debris is usually found beneath the free edge of the infected nail. Symptoms of toenail fungus, which may be caused by several types of fungi, include swelling, yellowing, thickening or crumbling of the nail, streaks or spots down the side of the nail, and even complete loss of the nail. Toenail color can vary from brown or yellow to white with this condition. Fungal infections can affect the fingernails as well as the toenails, but toenail fungus is more difficult to treat because toenails grow slower. It occurs generally on the big or small toe, but might occur on any toe. If left untreated, the skin becomes inflamed and painful underneath and around the nail. There could also be white or yellow patches on the nail bed or scaly skin next to the nail. There’s usually no pain or other bodily symptoms, unless the disease is severe. People with Onychomycosis may go through significant psychosocial problems due to the appearance of the nail, especially when fingers – which are always visible – as opposed to toenails are affected.
Who gets Toenail Fungus?
Some people are more susceptible than others, and contract it with mild to severe symptoms. Toenail fungus can be picked up in damp areas such as public gyms, shower stalls or swimming pools, and can be passed among family members. Athletes and people who wear tight-fitting shoes or tight hosiery that cause trauma to the toes or keep the feet from drying out are at higher risk. The condition can also spread from one toe to another, or to other parts of the body. Also, if you have an abnormal pH level on your skin or some form of trauma to the nail. Poor hygiene of the foot can allow the fungus in your feet to grow and spread. Some estimates are that over 10% of the North American population has fungus of the toenails, and it is one of the most common ailments that foot specialists attend to.