What Causes Toenail Fungus?

31 March 2023

Toenail fungus is incredibly common – and yet, for so many people, it’s a source of discomfort and embarrassment. But there’s no need to avoid sandals and paint over your discoloured nails in shame! Toenail fungus is easy to diagnose and treat. Frustrating as this condition can be to deal with, once you figure out the underlying cause of your nail infection, you can start to tackle getting rid of it.

Continue reading as we break down what causes toenail fungus, how to spot it, and what a podiatrist can do about it. Soon enough, you can have your toenails back in tip-top shape.

For personalised health advice, contact our team at Capital Podiatry today.

Spotting Toenail Fungus

So, what exactly is toenail fungus? Essentially, this term refers to a remarkably common infection of the nail bed. It can affect just one nail, or can easily spread across several. The earliest sign you’re likely to notice is a white or yellow-brown spot just under the tip of your toenail. As the fungal infection progresses and begins to grow deeper, you may start to notice discolouration, thickening, and crumbling of the nails.

While fungus can infect fingernails as well, it’s more commonly found in toenails. Other symptoms that you may notice as your infection progresses can include a brittle or ragged texture, misshapen nails, and separation from the nail bad. Particularly infected nails can sometimes let off a noticeable smell as well. 

Causes of Toenail Fungus

Fungal nail infections are caused by fungi, which is a living organism. This is the very same fungus that causes infections such as athlete’s foot and ringworm. Essentially, this nail fungus (called onychomycosis) enters the nail bed and infects it. If your toenails are already dry or brittle, they may have cracks – and these cracks are a perfect opening for germs and fungus to find their way in.

Due to the common infection causing many cases of athlete’s foot and toenail fungus, it’s not uncommon to see patients experiencing both at the same time. A breakout of athlete’s foot can lead to toenail fungus as well! Fungal infections are shockingly easy to spread, which is why the best thing you can do is nip the problem in the bud.

Risk Factors

Certain health issues, lifestyle choices, and habits can increase your risk of developing a fungal nail infection. As previously mentioned, having dry or cracked nails increases the likelihood of fungus being able to enter the nailbed and causing even more damage. Fungus also thrives in wet conditions – by keeping your feet clean and dry, you lessen your chances of getting infected.

If you make a habit out of wearing sweaty socks or going barefoot into public showers, you are more likely to experience fungal nails. Here are some other risk factors that will increase the likelihood of infection:

  • A history of athlete’s foot
  • Getting older
  • Sweating heavily
  • Minor nail injuries
  • Diabetes
  • Weakened immune systems
  • Poor blood flow
  • Walking barefoot around public pools, change rooms, and showers

Check your feet regularly for any signs of infection, and be sure to respond quickly if you notice something may be wrong!

When to Seek Treatment

Even minor fungus infections are unlikely to go away on your own. Fortunately, treatment is relatively simple and straightforward! If you feel awkward or uncomfortable talking about your fungal nail infection, we can assure you there’s nothing to worry about. Podiatrists will see countless cases of toenail fungus – it’s one of the most common foot problems out there!

There are several at-home treatments you can try, many of which are over the counter. If you feel these aren’t bringing any improvement to the shape, colour, or texture of your nails, then it’s best to see a podiatrist quickly to check things out. If you have diabetes, don’t attempt to treat a fungal infection yourself. Having diabetes can increase your risk of complications, so it’s best to seek immediate podiatric care to sort the problem out safely.

Visit Capital Podiatry to Get Your Toenails Checked

At the end of the day, there’s no reason to feel embarrassed about toenail fungus. Chances are you don’t even realise how many people you know who will have had nail infections treated in the past. Here at Capital Podiatry, our podiatrist Canberra couldn’t possibly count the number of fungal nail infections we’ve treated at our clinic! If you’re looking to get your toenails checked out and treated, we’re ready to lend a hand. Book an appointment with one of our friendly podiatrists today, and let’s get your foot health back on track!


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