The Lowdown on Toenail Fungus

Dr. Anthony Spitz, DPM

Podiatrist & Ankle and Foot Surgeon located in Wheeling, IL

Toenail fungus is something most people are not comfortable talking about. And keeping your toes healthy may not necessarily be on the top of your to-do list. But maybe it should be!

We don’t often realize how important foot health is until we start seeing signs that indicate something is wrong. But in reality, our feet should be top priority when it comes to taking care of our well-being. After all, they are the very foundation keeping our bodies moving!

This is especially true since our feet are regularly confined within sweaty socks and shoes where fungus can thrive. Fungi love dark, moist, warm environments. However, it is worth noting that toenail fungus can happen by mere exposure to the surrounding elements as well.

Toenail fungus is a relatively common condition afflicting about 14 percent of the human population.

Often it is caused by microscopic organisms that feed on keratin – the protein found in nails and hair. It usually starts as a white or yellowish spot underneath the tip of the nail and, if left untreated, the nail can begin to show discoloration, thicken and crumble. It is also contagious, so other toenails may eventually begin showing signs of infection as well.

Normally, you can try taking care of the situation using home remedies, as long as the condition is not causing any discomfort or doesn’t seem to get worse. However, if the nail starts to thicken and/or becomes painful, then it’s probably a good idea to see a podiatrist.

So, How Do You Know if You Have Toenail Fungus?

Here are some of the symptoms you should be on the lookout for:

  • Changes in the color of the nail. Does the nail have any white spots, or brown or yellow streaks? Is there any debris building underneath the nail causing it to turn a dark color?
  • Changes in the texture/shape of the nail. Does the nail seem thicker? Is the nail crumbling or brittle? Has the shape changed?
  • Take a sniff. Does the toenail emit a slightly foul odor?
  • Pain around the area. Are you experiencing any pain or swelling of the toe? Is the area dry and/or itchy?

Of course, you should also consider if you are one of the many people who is actually prone to developing toenail fungus.

Are You One of Them? (The Risk Factors)

Although toenail fungus can happen to people across all demographics, there are some causing factors which may increase the probability of actually getting one.

  • Being an older adult. As we get older, blood flow begins to decline, nails begin to crack and nail growth slows, which leaves room for fungi to grow.
  • Sweating excessively. If you are someone who sweats more than the average person, that means your nails are most likely always surrounded by moisture. And moisture is fungi’s best friend.
  • Walking barefoot in wet surfaces. Public areas like swimming pools, gyms, and shower rooms – which are normally damp – are a playground for fungi.
  • Having diabetes. As diabetes often comes along with circulatory issues and a weakened immune system, the chances of developing toenail fungus are naturally increased.

If one or more of these instances apply to you, there is no need to panic. Prevention is the key, and we are here to give you some pointers on how to nip the problem in the bud before it becomes a nuisance!.

Tips to Prevent Toenail Fungus

  • Wear shower shoes, water shoes, or flip-flips around public areas. These include moist or damp places like gyms, locker rooms, and public showers. By doing so, you will avoid catching fungi from others, and at the same time your feet will thank you for the fresh air.
  • Change your socks whenever they become damp. You may have to do this more than once a day if your feet sweat excessively.
  • Trim your nails the right way. To help keep fungi away, keep your nails short – but not too short – and make sure to use clean/sterile tools when doing so. Make sure to cut the nail straight across rather than in an arch.
  • Alternate between at least two pair of shoes. Doing so will allow your shoes to dry out completely before you wear them again, preventing not only fungal nails but also other fungal infections like athlete’s foot.
  • Throw away infected shoes. This may be the hard part. But if you just completed a toenail fungus treatment, it is best to get rid of those shoes which may have been infected. You will help avoid recurring cases by doing so.

Following these preventative measures will substantially reduce your chances of infection. However, you should keep in mind that this condition is very common and contagious, and toenail fungus may come back in the future. That’s why the best thing to do is consistently check your toenails and the skin around them for early signs of infection while washing your feet daily.

When Do You Need Surgery?
Have Diabetes? You Need to Check Your Feet EVERY DAY.
What Diabetic Foot Care Means for You
Getting the Best Treatment for Bunions

Office Hours:








10:00 am - 7:00 pm

10:00 am - 5:00 pm

(Every Other) 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

10:00 am - 5:00 pm

10:00 am - 4:00 pm

(Every Other) 10:00 am - 5:00 pm


Created by DearDoc

All Rights Reserved Dr. Anthony Spitz, DPM