What Causes Nail Fungus?

Nail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, is a common fungal infection that affects the nails. It is primarily caused by dermatophyte fungi, but other types of fungi and yeast can also be responsible. The fungi responsible for nail infections thrive in warm and moist environments, making the feet especially susceptible. Some of the common factors that can cause nail fungus include:

  • Damp and Warm Environments: Walking barefoot in public places like swimming pools, gyms, and locker rooms, where the floor is often damp and warm, can expose the feet to fungi.
  • Wearing Tight Shoes: Shoes that do not allow proper ventilation and cause the feet to sweat excessively can create a favorable environment for fungal growth.
  • Nail Injuries: Trauma to the nails, such as cracks, splits, or injuries, can provide an entry point for fungi to infect the nail bed.
  • Weakened Immune System: A weakened immune system, which can occur due to various factors like certain medical conditions, medications, or diseases, can make a person more susceptible to fungal infections.
  • Poor Nail Hygiene: Not maintaining good nail hygiene, such as not trimming nails regularly or keeping them too long, can increase the risk of fungal infections.
  • Nail Polish and Artificial Nails: Nail polish and artificial nails can create a sealed environment around the nails, promoting fungal growth by trapping moisture and warmth.
  • Pre-existing Skin Conditions: People with pre-existing skin conditions, such as athlete’s foot, are more prone to developing nail fungus since the same fungi can affect both the skin and nails.
  • Family History: A family history of nail fungus can increase the risk of developing the infection.
  • Age: Older individuals are more susceptible to nail fungus due to reduced blood circulation, slower nail growth, and possibly weaker immune systems.

Nail fungus can affect both toenails and fingernails, but it is more commonly seen in the toenails. The infection often starts at the tip of the nail and gradually spreads to the nail bed, causing the nail to become discolored, thickened, brittle, and distorted.

If you suspect a nail fungus infection, it’s essential to seek medical advice for proper diagnosis and treatment. Over-the-counter antifungal treatments may be effective for mild cases, but more severe or persistent infections may require prescription medications or other treatments prescribed by a healthcare professional. Good foot hygiene, wearing breathable footwear, and avoiding prolonged exposure to moist environments can also help prevent nail fungus.