Toenail Fungus (Onychomycosis)– Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

Toenail infection is a condition that is caused by the fungus – onychomycosis, also known as tinea unguium. Besides toenail, it can also affect other areas of feet, leading to conditions like athlete’s foot. The infection occurs by the overgrowth of onychomycosis under, in, or on the nail.

Fungi need a moist and warm environment for their growth and survival, so such an environment can easily lead to their overpopulation. Toenail infections are more common than one affecting fingernails due to the moist and warm environment provided by the shoes.

While getting a pedicure in a nail salon, it should be ensured that the staff has properly disinfected their tools such as nail clippers. These tools can spread the infection, if not sanitized after getting in contact with the affected person.

Fungal infections don’t develop immediately. So, any difference in the appearance of nails may provide an indication of the infection.

Symptoms Associated with Infection

Onychomycosis infection may cause the affected nail to become thickened, brittle, ragged, and distorted. Moreover, the nail may show yellow-brown or whitish discoloration. And with the progression of infection, the color of the toenail may become dark due to the build-up of debris under it.

Related: Could Toe Nail Fungus Cause Other Health Complications?

Individuals Who Are at Risk

There are various reasons that may lead to a toenail infection. But some people are more prone to the infection compared to others. A person has more chances of toenail infection if he:

  • Suffers from diabetes
  • Have an age above 65
  • Usually wears nail extensions or uses nail remover
  • Is experiencing a nail injury
  • Had an injury on the skin surrounding toenail
  • Has a weak or compromised immune system
  • Keeps fingers moist for a longer time period
  • Has a disease that leads to poor blood circulation
  • Wears boots or tennis shoes
  • Moreover, due to poor blood circulation, these infections are more common in men compared to women.

Different Fungal Infections Affecting Toenail

White Superficial Infection:

This infection mostly affects toenail by creating clear white spots on its top layers. With the passage of time, these white patches become visible on the whole nail, causing the nail to become soft, rough, and sometimes pitted.

Distal Subungual Infection:

This infection is among the most common types of fungal infections affecting nails. Such infections have an effect on both toenails and fingernails. After the development of infection, the nail shows a jagged appearance along with the presence of yellow or/and white streaks across the nail.

Proximal Subungual Infection:

Such infections are quite uncommon and just like distal subungual infection, these infections can also affect both toenails and fingernails. With the progression of the infection, yellow spots start appearing at the base of the nail.

Individuals with a compromised immune system and those having a minor injury to nail have a greater risk of infections.


A severe case of toenail infection can irreversibly damage nails. If such cases have a compromised immune system due to diabetes, medication, or other conditions, they may also become prone to other serious infections like athlete’s foot.

If a person is suffering from diabetes, he may have a greater risk of cellulitis, along with a reduction in nerve supply and blood circulation to feet. In short, minor damage to feet, even by toenail fungal infection, may lead to more serious consequences.

How to Prevent Toenail Infection?

Following these tips may prevent toenail infections or reoccurrence.

  • Wash hands and feet on a regular basis, especially after you have touched a nail affected by onychomycosis
  • Reduce the use of nail extensions and nail polish removers
  • Have pedicure from honest and reliable salons
  • Trim your nails properly and file down the edges and thickened areas
  • Prefer socks that would absorb sweat or change socks during the whole day
  • Treat old shoes with antifungal powders or disinfectants, otherwise, it is better to dispose of them

While visiting public places, avoid going barefoot

If no improvement by following self-care steps is observed in individuals with toenail infection, then, it is recommended to visit a physician. In this condition, further thickening, discoloration, and deformation may be noticed. Moreover, such individuals are also recommended to visit a physician if they have diabetes and feel that they are facing the problem of nail fungus.





Khadija Ahmad

An author at Ask Health News, Khadija has good experience in Health And Physical Education and delivers her research work to entertain readers. Her words reflect creativity and intellect as she succeeds in shaping them into interesting articles for readers. Email: khadija@askhealthnews.com

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