Patient Education about Toenail Fungus



Infections related to toenail fungus are fairly common conditions which affects approximately 10% of the American population. The fungus that invades your toenail is a living organism which thrives in dark, damp conditions. While the fungus has the potential to occur in the fingernail, it is far more common in the toes because of the desirable environment of the foot. This toenail fungus can live along the side of the nail or under the nail; however, this may depend on many factors such as the progression or severity of the condition.

Recognize symptoms of ToeNail Fungal Infections

Many doctors have noted in the beginning stages of this condition it is common for the fungus to live alongside the toenail and if left untreated slowly progress inward or under the nail. Some symptoms at the beginning of this toenail fungal infection include a white or yellowish spot on the nail. It is often not a common occurrence to have pain at this stage of the infection. It is this lack of pain which often causes this symptom to be overlooked, therefore allowing the infection to progress.

The next stage of the toenail infection is a bit more noticeable, although symptoms can occur rather slowly. At first you may notice a dullness followed by a yellowing and your toenail may actually change shape. This change in the shape of your toenail may actually be caused by the thickening and/or crumbling of the edges that occurs. This thick yellowing of the nail is often the trademark of this condition. At this stage of the toenail infection most people experience some degree of discomfort. This may be associated to the fact the toenail can actually separate from the nail bed.

When the condition progresses enough to result in a separation of the nail and skin, exposing the nail bed, this can result in a serious infection. If you notice a foul odor or pus oozing from the toe it is imperative you seek medical intervention to prevent a serious infection.

How Toenail Fungus Infections Are Spread

A common misconception is the micro-organism which causes this infection is rare and only found in dirty places. This micro-organism is not biased. If there is a warm, damp environment to be found it is likely for the spores to be picked up on a person’s hands or feet. This interaction between you and the fungus usually takes place on a daily basis. The problem occurs when you give the fungus a desirable environment to live in.

The toe fungus which usually causes these infections is known in the medical community as dermatophytes. There are other causes of fungal nail infections such as yeast and mold; however, dermatophytes are the most common cause. Certain factors may cause an individual more susceptible to toenail fungus.

Common Factors that Cause Toenail Fungus

  • A malfunctioning immune system
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Trauma to the foot that includes the toenail
  • Abnormal skin pH
  • Poor hygiene
  • Previous fungal infections of the nails

Toenail fungal infections are not life threatening or debilitating. However, these infections can become painful and affect the self-esteem due to the appearance of the nail. Because toenail fungus can be difficult to treat, prevention is of the utmost importance.

If you have concerns you may have a toenail fungus contact the Nail Restoration Center or fill out our contact form. We can examine your toes and run tests to give you a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan.