Is Toenail Fungus Contagious?
Most people don’t take toenail fungus seriously. Since they may never have had an infected toenail before, they think they don’t have to pay attention to the various warnings about toenail fungal infections. The reality is these infections are highly contagious, and if you are not careful you can contract one that will take years to get rid of.
Nail fungus can be passed between people who have constant intimate contact with each other. It’s not unusual to find multiple people in a household who have the disease. It’s also no coincidence that if you have nail fungus on one toe that you’ll develop it on others, though some may remain entirely uninfected. However, nail fungus is a slow progressive disease and the damage to the nail increases to a greater degree over time the longer you have it.
Toenail infections are caused by different types of fungi, yeasts, and molds with the most common being Trichophyton rubrum. However, dermatophytes are the biggest offenders when it comes to infecting nails. These organisms actually live on the body and can quickly become a problem for their host under the right conditions. Dermatophytes can also live on inanimate surfaces and thrive in moist damp areas like showers.
Toenail fungus can live undetected on the nail bed for many months, which increases the risk of spreading it. If you don’t want to spend weeks, months, or years battling reoccurring infections and living with toenails that are discolored in some combination of black, white and yellow, here are a few things you can do to prevent fungal toenail infections.
Preventing Toenail Fungus
The primary way to avoid infections is to maintain a high level of hygiene. Poor hygiene is one of the main causes of toenail fungus. If you use public showers, wear shower sandals or flip flops. At home, scrub your tub and shower with an antifungal cleaner like bleach on a regular basis. After exercising, promptly remove your socks and shoes to allow your feet to air out. The longer your feet remain moist, the higher the chances you will contract toenail fungus. Additionally, wear cotton socks and change them on a daily basis.
If you have a problem with sweaty feet, make sure you wear shoes that allow for plenty of ventilation. Use medicated foot powders to minimize moisture and kill any fungus that may be hanging around. Keep your toenails short and clean, and always wash your hands after touching an infected nail.
Don’t pick at the skin around your toes. Cuts and open wounds are one way the fungus gains access to the nail bed. If you get manicures and pedicures, make sure you go to a reputable salon that sterilizes the instruments they use. While you may want to hide unsightly nails under a coat of polish, doing so can unwittingly trap moisture in the nail and make the problem worse.
Your overall good or bad health can sometimes show up in your nails. For example, blue nail beds may indicate heart or lung problems. Poor nail health may be a sign of a more serious problem, and it’s best to seek advice from a healthcare professional if the issue doesn’t resolve after home treatment. If you want to grow your nails stronger or improve their health, following a high protein diet may help.
How to Treat it?
Depending on the severity and the treatment method used, it can take a year or more to get rid of a toenail fungal infection. You have a couple of options available to you, each with their pros and cons. The first line of treatment most doctors recommend is to use oral or topical medications to treat the problem. The effectiveness of these medications varies but they are not safe for everyone to use. Also, they can cause unpleasant side effects to develop such as nausea, diarrhea, and skin rashes.
There are a couple of high-tech treatment options that are currently in development:
- Applying an electrical current to the nail after applying a topical antifungal medicine may increase absorption
- Photodynamic therapy involves shining light of a certain wavelength onto the nail to activate healing agents in complementary medications
You can also try several home remedies such as soaking the affected foot in a solution of vinegar and warm water for 15 to 20 minutes every day. Another option is Vick VapoRub. Some people swear that massaging this into the toe helps kill the fungus causing the infection though scientific evidence is absent.
If you want something that really works, we have found several all-natural treatments that will help you kick the infection without side effects. For information about these top anti-fungal remedies, read our reviews of the most popular products on the homepage.