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Fungal Toenail Infections Spread, Prevention, and Treatment

Dr. Eman Elmi
March 21, 2022
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Toenail fungus, also called Onychomycosis, is a common infection that causes thickened, discolored nails and can often be uncomfortable. Fungal toenail treatment and spread prevention first begin with a diagnosis. Fungal spores will grow on any receptive surface they land on and thrive in warm, damp environments. Regularly sweaty feet are the ideal environment for a fungus. The microscopic organisms feed on nail tissues, burrowing under the skin, thickening and raising the nail up off the toe. 

Once an infection has been confirmed, it is important to not only treat the nails but also prevent spreading. A fungus can spread to other parts of the body, as well as other people. A better understanding of how fungus spreads will also help prevent further infection. Laser treatment for fungal toenails is the most popular and effective remedy. 

How Toenail Fungus Spreads

Many types of toenail fungus are quite contagious and easily spread through direct or indirect contact. In 2006, scientists did a study that discovered fungal infections spread easily to family members in close proximity. Infection is usually caused by contact with a surface containing the fungus. People with poor circulation, cuts, or eczema are more likely to become infected, but even healthy feet get fungus. 

Common surfaces where toenail fungus thrives:

  • Swimming pool decks
  • Locker rooms
  • Showers

Essentially, if a surface is damp and warm on a regular basis, there is a high chance of fungus. There is also an elevated chance of spreading a fungus you already have. Unfortunately, toenail fungus doesn’t just have the potential to infect other people but also other parts of the body. 

The most common area toenail fungus spreads to is in between the toes. The direct contact and sweaty nature create the perfect environment for the infection to thrive. At this point, the infection is called athletes foot. Other areas vulnerable to spread are the groin (jock itch) and the head. Brushing infected toes against underwear while dressing puts the fungus in direct contact with the sensitive skin of the groin. Failing to wash hands thoroughly after touching an infected foot increases the probability of infecting your scalp as well. 

How to Prevent Spreading

There are a few actions to take that will help prevent initial infection or prevent spreading if the nail is already infected. 

  • Wash hands and feet with soap and warm water on a regular basis
  • Wear moisture-wicking socks or change them regularly
  • Wear breathable shoes
  • Trim nails straight across and file down thicker parts of the nail
  • Disinfect the nail clippers after each use
  • Wear flip flops or other foot protection in communal pools and lockers
  • Confirm any nail salon visited properly sterilizes their tools
  • Throw away or disinfect any old shoes worn during an infection
  • Use antifungal foot powder daily

While the best fungal toenail treatment is prevention, not everyone has that luxury. Seeking effective treatment for a fungal infection is a key part of preventing further spread. Until recently only topical solutions were available, and they were not guaranteed to be effective. Doctors regularly saw toenail fungus as a malady to be managed and rarely cured. 

Laser Treatment for Fungal Toenails 

Fungal nail laser treatments have shown to be 80% effective for patients, with none of the side effects topicals have. The treatments are roughly thirty minutes each and months apart so you don’t have to worry about daily applications. 

The fungal nail laser treatment concentrates heat at the infected area, eradicating the fungus at its source. The treatment eliminates the need for topical creams or invasive surgeries. 

The Best Fungal Toenail Treatment 

At Diablo Foot & Ankle, we are here to help you identify and treat toenail fungal infections. Experienced doctors and technicians will walk you through each step of the process and answer all your questions. We’ve got the best fungal toenail treatment you’ll find. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and start your journey toward healthier feet.

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