A troubling thought, isn’t it?
Living with unsightly fungal nail infections is not only embarrassing, but it can shatter your confidence.
To make it worse, you must have been wondering —
Is toenail / fingernail fungus contagious to others?
Can toenail fungus spread to other parts of the body?
Before we jump right into it, let’s first understand:
Onychomycosis In a Glance
Nail fungus is a medical condition also known as Onychomycosis. It is caused by micro-organisms that live on dead skin tissues. A case of nail fungus infection is diagnosed when the microorganisms affect the nail bed (the skin beneath the nails), toenail, or fingernail.
A nail fungus infection occurs when the microorganisms’ are able to infect the skin beneath or around the nails through cuts in the skin located in these areas. It can also occur when the microorganisms cause an infection by gaining access to the nail bed through the space that exists between a nail and the nail bed.
According to WebMD, nail fungus can be caused by yeasts, molds and the same type of fungus responsible for athletes’ foot.
Onychomycosis can affect people of different ages, race, and gender. This kind of infection is also reported among patients who have been previously diagnosed with diabetes and psoriasis, while nail fungus is also common among people with weakened or compromised immune systems.
Dr. Richard Jacoby elaborates more on toenail fungus causes in the brief video below.
Is Toenail / Fingernail Fungus Contagious?
Yes, toenail fungus and fingernail fungus are contagious.
This means that you could get infected by the toenail fungus and fingernail fungus if you come in contact with someone who has this infection or clothing materials they have just used.
Nail fungus can be contagious from person to person either directly or indirectly, whilst it spreads quickly too. If one of your fingers or toes has been infected, this infection can quickly spread to the other digits of your hands or legs if treatment is not immediately commenced.
The risk of toenail / fingernail fungus contraction is especially high in warm moist places where nail fungus thrives. Public facilities like the swimming pool, public showers, and locker rooms are good breeding grounds for this fungus.
Reputable reports have also indicated that athletes are more likely to become infected with the nail fungus. The reasons are due to the torture athletes put their feet through when they have to wear tight fitting sports shoes (which become moist with sweat) for long periods.
A case of athletes’ foot will most likely has the the fungus spread to the toenails. And if the patient is not careful, the finger nails could get infected too from the spreading fungus, because toenail fungus can be contagious to fingernails and even groin area, says Cleveland Clinic.
Your toe nails can become exposed to an infection in various ways. If you break a toenail by kicking it against a wall or if you fall, the broken toenail could get infected by nail fungus through the resulting cuts. Athletes are also at risk because of the movement of the foot inside the sports shoes which are usually tight fitting.
The spread of the nail fungus is also encouraged when sharing personal items like shoes, socks, nail clippers, and manicure equipment through indirect contact.
You also stand the risk of getting nail fungus when you get a pedicure from a salon where the right protective measures have not been adopted. At the nail salon, if equipment like the nail clippers, files, and foot tubs has not been properly sterilized in between rendering the service, the spread of nail fungus could continue unhindered to another customer that visits the salon.
NHS UK recommends you should always ensure that the salon where you do your manicure carries out extensive sterilization of all the equipment immediately after use. This fungus also spreads when a nail polish has been previously used on infected nails, so you should consider taking your personal nail polish along with you to the salon.
Is Toenail Fungus Hereditary?
According to Probity Medical Research:
Although it is not a hereditary condition, not everyone is equally susceptible. There are families with genes that make them more prone to fungal nail infections. They are the ones who usually get Onychomycosis at a younger age and those with repeated infections.
Symptoms and Treatment of Nail Fungal Infection – Curable?
The common symptoms of nail fungal infection are discolored nails which are brittle, displaced and thickened. Considering this condition is highly contagious, it is important that you should maintain proper hygiene and protective measures to avoid infecting the people around you.
As revealed by MedicineNet, toenail fungus normally starts as a discolored area (usually whitish or yellowish) at a corner of toe then gradually spreads toward the cuticle.
This first indication of infection usually goes unnoticed or ignored by many people until the infection worsens. Eventually, the nail will become thickened, brittle and repulsive to look at.
As nail fungal infection can quickly spread if you do not do anything about it, we always advocate that treatment should commence at the first indication of an infection in view of its contagiousness — to prevent further spread to your other nails and even people around you.
While it is common to see people fall a victim of toenail fungal infections, it is not a very serious condition however, you could become very uncomfortable with the look of your infected nails and there could be severe damage done to your nail bed.
In any instance where it is not possible to administer treatment directly on the infected parts of your nails, you should use potent antifungal topical products on the skin surrounding the infected nail to prevent the infection from spreading. This also protects the surrounding skin.
As shown below, the Top 3 over the counter nail fungus removal products in the market are EmoniNail, Funginix, and ZetaClear.
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Prevention of Nail Fungus Infection on Toenail and Fingernail
Dr. John Fritz, podiatric physician and surgeon, shares his insights on toenail fungus infection in the video below, which also contains nail fungus symptoms pictures.
While it is common to witness a recurrence of nail fungal infections especially when the right treatment was not administered properly, the following steps will guide you on how to prevent this from happening.
You will also know what you should do to prevent people around you from getting infected.
- When you are in public places, don’t walk are barefooted, as toenail fungus is contagious. Always wear shoes or sandals in places like the public swimming pool, the locker room, or in a public shower etc. These places are always moist and warm, hence a perfect breeding ground for the fungus.
- Avoid wearing moist shoes; your shoes should be designed to permit the release of moisture. Wet shoes should be dried before another use.
- Avoid sharing personal equipment like nail files or clippers, shoes, socks, or towels with other people.
- If you sweat a lot, you could choose to wear socks made from wool, polypropylene or nylon to absorb the moisture.
- Keep your feet dry at all times. You should let your feet air dry as often as you can. You could also apply antifungal powder products after having your bath daily.
- Wash your hands after touching the infected nails, to prevent spreading of nail fungus when your hand come in contact with other fingernails and toenails on your body.