What is Toenail Fungus? - PIH Health

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Published on February 17, 2015

What is Toenail Fungus?

What is Toenail Fungus?

What is Toenail Fungus?Are you an athlete or do you like fancy shoes? Here are some tips on avoiding toenail fungus.

Toenail fungus is a common condition that begins as a white or yellow spot under the tip of your toenail. Fungus infections occur when microscopic fungi gain entry through a small trauma in the nail, then grow and spread in the warm, moist environment inside socks and shoes. Symptoms of toenail fungus, which can be caused by several types of fungi, include swelling, yellowing, thickening or crumbling of the nail, and sometimes even complete loss of the nail.

How did I Get Fungus?

Toenail fungus can be picked up in damp areas such as public gyms, shower stalls or swimming pools and can be passed among family members. Athletes and people who wear tight-fitting shoes or tight hosiery that cause trauma to the toes or prevent the feet from drying out are at higher risk. The condition can also spread from one toe to another or to other parts of the body. Other risk factors include abnormal PH level of the skin, not drying off the feet thoroughly after bathing or exercise and a compromised immune system.


Proper hygiene and regular inspection of the feet and toes are the first lines of defense against fungal nails. Clean and dry feet resist disease.

  • Wash your feet with soap and water, remembering to dry thoroughly
  • Wear shower shoes when possible in public areas
  • Change shoes, socks, or hosiery more than once daily
  • Clip toenails straight across so that the nail does not extend beyond the tip of the toe
  • Wear shoes that fit well and are made of materials that breathe
  • Wear socks made of synthetic fiber that “wicks” moisture away from your feet faster than cotton or wool socks do
  • Disinfect instruments used to cut nails

When to Visit a Podiatrist

You should visit a podiatrist when you notice any discoloration, thickening or deformity of your toenails. The earlier you seek professional treatment, the greater your chance at getting your nails to clear.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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