What Causes Nail Fungus?
Nail fungus can be caused by several different things and the cause of the infection is often difficult or even impossible to identify.
Here are some common nail fungus culprits:
- Growing Older. It’s inevitable but as we age our bodies begin to break down and our immune systems to weaken. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people over the age of 50 contract nail fungus (source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24364524). The most common cause of nail fungus is aging due to the following factors:
- Weakening immune system
- Poor circulation
- Decreased nail growth
- Medical problems such as Diabetes
- Injury. Blunt force trauma or any other injury to the nail results in damage that could uplift the nail causing the nail bed to be more susceptible to entry by bacteria, dermatophytes, or other germs. Trauma to the nail could result from something as simple as stubbing your toe or dropping an object on your foot (source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193631/).
- Moisture. Dermataophytes and other bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments very similar to the environment created in closed toe shoes. Closed toe shoes serve as the perfect breeding ground for bacteria especially in the summertime when foot perspiration is more common. For this reason, toenail fungus is far more likely to occur than fingernail fungus. (source: http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/fungal-nail-infections-cause)
- Manicures and Pedicures. Be weary of any salon that doesn’t abide by a strict standard for sanitation procedure between clients. Equipment and instruments used by your nail technician during a manicure or pedicure such as a nail file, clippers, cuticle cutter, and other instruments should be washed thoroughly between uses in an antibacterial soap and then soaked in a Fungicidal solution to properly disinfect for the required length of time to kill any and all bacteria. It is not uncommon for reputable spas and salons to use disposable instruments between each client to ensure safety and prevent an outbreak of nail fungus among their clientele.
If you are suspicious you may have contracted nail fungus from your local nail salon, give them a call ahead of time and inquire about their sanitation procedure, the quality of the disinfectant they use to sterilize their instruments, and if they rinse their foot baths or allow them to soak in a Fungicidal or Sporicidal solution between clients. If you prefer to be more elusive, you check for a certificate of health inspection which is likely hanging prominently on their wall.
- Public Places.. Showers, Sidewalks, Pools, Locker Rooms. Avoid walking barefoot in any of these publics places as they are prime opportunities to contract a nail infection and one of the major causes of nail fungus. In general, walking barefoot in any public place that is dark, wet, and where other people frequently walk barefoot dramatically increases the likelihood of toenail fungus. Wear water shoes or flip flops to be on the safe side.
- Athlete’s Foot. Did you know the same fungal bacteria that causes Athlete’s foot can cause toenail fungus, too? It’s true, athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the dermis whereas nail fungus is concentrated underneath the nail bed.
- Shoes and Socks. This goes without say, always wear fresh, clean socks made out of a material that breathe. If your old gym sneakers have lasted the past 3 years it’s time to swap them out for a newer, more sanitary pair. Mesh shoes allow the foot to breathe more and are a safer candidate to wear. In the summertime, wear open toed shoes or sandals to allow your feet to get some air.
If you have contracted nail fungus already and are looking for treatment, please refer to our guide for more in depth information on treating nail fungus.