Toenail Fungal Infection (Toenail Fungus)

Causes of Toenail Fungal Infection

The fungi that cause toenail infection—dermatophytes, yeasts, molds-- thrive in warm, moist environments, such as swimming pools, showers, locker rooms, bathrooms, and in tight shoes that squeeze the toes together, making them damp and moist.  Damp socks and shoes—especially plastic shoes--and warm, humid conditions also promote fungal growth. A fungus can live in footwear and on surfaces of floors, mats, rugs, clothes, and linens for up to six months. It can get under the skin or toenail through tiny cuts or small separations between the toenail and nail bed.

Like athlete’s foot, toenail fungus can be spread by skin-to-skin contact with a person whose toenail is infected, and even between people and household pets. People with diabetes, peripheral arterial disease or other conditions that affect blood flow to the legs and feet are particularly vulnerable to toenail fungal infections, as are people with weakened immune systems. These groups should be especially careful about exposing their feet to conditions likely to produce the problem.

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