What is a nail fungal infection?
You don’t often notice a nail fungal infection straight away because it is not painful and because you don’t inspect your feet regularly. However, it is important for you to treat a nail infection as soon as you notice symptoms such as nail fungus and itchy toes, as it will not clear up on its own and may even spread.1
A nail fungal infection (also known as onychomycosis) is mainly caused by dermatophytes, the same fungi responsible for athlete’s foot.2 Toenail fungus is the most difficult to cure of all fungal infections.
There are many different causes of nail fungal infection.3 The most prevalent predisposing risk factor is advanced age. Patients over 60 years of age are nearly 20 times more at risk of developing nail fungal infection in comparison with patients younger than 19 years of age.
It has been also discovered that men are up to three times more likely to have nail fungal infection than women. Other risk factors include diabetes, diseases that cause poor blood circulation and a weakened immune system.4
Since fungi thrives in warm and moist environments, it's easy to assume that a nail fungal infection would be prevalent in tropical climates. Not true! People living in hot and humid weather don’t wear occlusive footwear that creates ideal conditions for toenail fungus to develop.
Nail fungal infections are very contagious. A nail infection does not only occur in places like shower stalls, swimming pools and locker rooms where people are barefoot, but also in nail salons, where the same tools are used for multiple customers. Besides that, nail trauma, which damages the nail-skin natural barrier, can also increase your chances of developing a nail fungal infection.5