What is a fungal nail infection?
You don’t often notice your fungal nail infection straight away because it is not painful and because you don’t tend to inspect your feet regularly. However, it is important for you to treat it as soon as you spot the symptoms because it will not clear up on its own and may even spread.
Fungal nail infection, known as onychomycosis, is mainly caused by dermatophytes, the same fungi responsible for athlete’s foot. Toenail fungus is the most difficult to cure of all fungal infections. There are many different causes of fungal nail infections.
The most prevalent predisposing risk factor is advanced age. Patients over 60 years of age are nearly 20 times more at risk of developing fungal nail infection in comparison with patients younger than 19 (Fungal Nail Infections (Onychomycosis): A Never-Ending Story?). It has been also discovered that men are up to three times more likely to have fungal nail infection than women (Fungal Nail Infections (Onychomycosis): A Never-Ending Story?). Other risk factors include diabetes, diseases that cause poor blood circulation and a weakened immune system.
Since fungi thrive in warm and moist environments, you might think fungal nail infection would be prevalent in tropical climates. Not true! People living in tropics don’t wear occlusive footwear that creates ideal conditions for fungi to develop.
Fungal nail infections are very contagious. The spread of foot infections, including fungal nail infection, occurs in places like shower stalls, swimming pools and locker rooms where people are barefoot but also in nail salons where the same nail accessories are used for many customers. Further, nail trauma, where the nail-skin junction or natural barrier is disrupted, can also increase the chances of developing fungal nail infection.