Identifying what causes fungal nail infections is step one in prevention. In our earlier blog, ‘What are fungal nails?’, we identified what fungal nails are and what they look like, but what causes them?
In our lifetime, our feet and toenails are squeezed into shoes too small, knocked around, stood on, painted and clipped – and all this often in the same week! Fungus is present on everyone’s skin and feet. There are three types of fungus that can cause fungal nail infections.
Yeasts: Yeast grows on the skin and the nails. Illness, antibiotics and immune system problems can allow for overgrowth of yeast, leading to a yeast infection.
Mould: Mould is fungus which grows in soil and can also grow on the skin and nails. The infection can be mild or severe. One or more toenails may be infected, with the surrounding skin becoming itchy and dry.
Dermatophytes: Dermatophytes grow on the skin, hair and nails. The most common dermatophyte can cause Athlete’s Foot, which in turn can infect the toenails. Infection can be caused by infected objects such as nail clippers and nail files. It is the most common cause of fungal toenail infection.
How infections take hold?
Fungal nail infections thrive in warm, moist and dark environments with a ready supply of food. Under a toenail is the perfect home for the fungus to thrive. Fungal spores also build up in everyone’s shoe, even open sandals. If a person’s nails are weakened, they can be at increased risk of infection.
Trauma to the nail, even the repeat use of nail polish remover or rubbing from footwear can result in an infection. Infections can thrive in occupational footwear, sporting activities and excessive sweating.
Sometimes there is no underlying cause, which means fungus can survive and flourish in a healthy and clean toenail. Keeping your feet dry and clean is a beginning step to preventing fungal growth in the toenails.
People of all ages and gender can be affected, but most commonly fungal nails are found in people over the age of 30. In fact, according to the Healthy Feet Survey, 20 per cent of people over the age of 30 experience fungal nail infections in their lifetime, which increases with age. With the help of a Podiatrist, you can find a treatment plan suitable for you to help treat your fungal nails.