Dermatologists Explain the Cause of Nail Fungus (and How to Fix It)

Dermatologists Explain the Cause of Nail Fungus (and How to Fix It)

nail fungusHealth

Do you or someone you love suffer from nail fungus? It’s a common problem that can happen to anyone, but there are a few individuals who are at a higher risk than others. Did you know that your age, health, and lifestyle can all play a part in whether you will develop those unsightly, thickened surface, yellow nailbeds?

What Causes Nail Fungus?

Many things can cause nail fungus, but it all starts from fungi that get into the nailbeds and fester. Small, microscopic organisms called fungi cause an infection in the nail that multiplies. Commonly, a condition such as ringworm or athlete’s foot introduces the fungi to the nail.

Still, having skin-to-skin contact with other contaminants or someone infected can also cause this unsightly problem. Places like locker rooms, saunas, or a pool deck are also loaded with fungi, they love to dwell in moist areas. Walking across a public pool deck barefooted may be all it takes to introduce fungi to your nails.


You can pick up this infection from a pair of finger or toenail clippers, or even a bath towel in the household. Another shocking thing to consider is that you can develop this fungus even if you haven’t been exposed. The feet of someone who wears socks and shoes are regularly subjected to moisture from sweat, and it’s easy for fungi to thrive in such an environment.


How does the fungus make the leap from the skin to the nail? Here are a few ways to consider:

  • Cuts or abrasions surrounding the nailbeds
  • Cracks or tears in the nail
  • A space or separation between the toe or finger and the nail

Underneath the nail is nice and warm because the body is nearly 99 degrees. The infection can set up residence there as it’s the perfect breeding ground to live and thrive. Once it begins to grow here, it will move and spread to other areas of the body.


When the infection first starts, it’s easier to catch as it sits near the nail’s surface. However, as the fungi continue to spread, it becomes much more complicated.

Who Gets Nail Fungus?

nail fungusWe’ve already established that anyone can develop a nail fungus, but some people have a higher risk of infection. As you age, the chances of you developing such an infection increase. Children are the least common people to get such a condition, especially before the age of six.

People who live in hot and humid climates have an increased risk of infection due to their living environment. Your medical situation also plays a big part in whether such a fungus can thrive on your body. Those who have the following conditions are more susceptible:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Circulation Issues
  • Psoriasis
  • HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome
  • Weakened Immune System
  • Organ Transplant Recipient
  • Injured Toenail or Fingernail
  • Athlete’s Foot
  • Cancer
  • Recent Nail Infections
  • Those Who Sweat Heavily
  • Those Who Frequent Gyms, Spas, or Swimming Pools

Symptoms of a Nail Fungus

The most common sign of a fungus of the nail is a thickened surface. Here are some other symptoms in the nails:

  • Yellow or Brown Discoloration
  • Crumbly or Brittle Nails
  • Foul Smell
  • Shape Distortion
  • Debris Building Under the Nail
  • Dark Coloring
  • Impossible to Cut with Clippers Because it’s too thick

Fungus of the nails if quite common. It often starts as a white spot under the nail that is an annoyance more than anything else. However, as the infection grows and penetrates, you will see it turn colors, become thicker, and crumble. What started as a fungus affecting one nail can quickly spread to other toe or fingernails too.


Some mild conditions that are troublesome may not require treatment. However, when the nail becomes thick, turns colors, or has a foul smell, you can do some home-based therapies. Keep in mind that even if your efforts are successful, the fungus can return.

The same fungus that gets between the toes and causes athlete’s foot is called tinea pedis, and it’s not the same as onychomycosis or nail fungi, but having this infection in between the toes can undoubtedly spread to the nails if there is an opening that allows it to creep in.

Difficulties with Nail Infections

While many cases of fungus are mild, some become complicated. When issues are severe, the toxins can cause permanent damage to the nail, and you may lose it. The goal is to keep the infection from spreading to other body areas beyond the feet.



The biggest concern is those who have a compromised immune system, which can be dangerous if the infection gets out of control. Those with Type 2 diabetes can often have circulation issues too that affect their feet. This puts you at a greater risk of developing a bacterial skin infection like cellulitis that can be dangerous.

With diabetes, any infection that affects your feet can be a severe complication requiring prompt medical help. While most don’t need to be concerned if there is a small dot of yellow or white under the nail, for the diabetic, it’s a cause for alarm.

Preventing Toenail Infections

Prevention is the key to keeping a nail fungus at bay. By doing the following things, you can reduce the risk of developing such a condition.

  • Wash your feet every day. Scrub them several times if they are prone to excessive sweat.
  • Wash your hands frequently and wash them, especially after touching your feet.
  • Wear shoes that allow your feet to breathe so no moisture builds up inside the footwear.
  • Always wear shoes in locker rooms, pool decks, and saunas.
  • Avoid using artificial nails and going to public salons for such treatments.
  • Don’t paint toe or fingernails as it traps bacteria.
  • Don’t keep old shoes that smell and have soles missing.
  • Buy sweat-absorbing socks that can keep your feet dry or change your socks a couple of times each day to prevent moisture build-up.
  • Trim your nails straight across and never cut to a curve.
  • File down any thickened areas of your nails before it becomes unmanageable.
  • Always clean all toenail and fingernail clippers with soap and water after each use.

Home Remedies and Treatments for Nail Fungus

Not every case of fungus requires a trip to the doctor. There are many treatments that you can do at home to handle the situation. Here are the most common treatments.

1. Tea Tree Oil

Make sure you use a pure 100 percent essential tea tree oil. Rub the nail directly with the oil and allow it to dry before putting on socks or shoes. Repeat often as this oil is known for its antifungal and antibacterial properties.


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2. Olive Leaf Extract

Apply olive leaf extract directly to the nail and allow it to do its magic. It has a property called oleuropein that can help it to eat away at the unsightly toxins.

3. Listerine

Did you know that Listerine was first created back in the 1800s to keep surgeries clean? It was invented by Dr. Joseph Lawrence, who wanted to help control germs when doing surgical procedures at his clinic.


After some trial and error, they found that it would also do wonders on the mouth’s bacteria. However, you needed a prescription to obtain it. Today, you don’t need a prescription for this tonic, and a foot soak in this potent brew is just what you need to get rid of the nasty fungus. Only dilute it in water and soak your feet for up to 15 minutes.

4. Vicks VapoRub

Do you remember your mom or grandma using Vicks VapoRub for tons of things? Well, they were smart to use this stuff from anything like sore throats to skin issues. Just rub some Vicks VapoRub on your affected nails and watch it work its magic. It turns out that this product has camphor and eucalyptus oil, which is known to have a positive effect on nail fungi.


5. Snakeroot Extract

If you have a stubborn infection, you may want to try some Snakeroot extract. It’s a plant related to the sunflower, and it’s known for its antibacterial properties. If you’ve tried some of the other commonly found methods and they haven’t helped, then you may want to order some of this extract to try.

6. Olive Leaf Extract

Olives and their leaves are both known for their medicinal properties. With this herb, you can either use the capsules which heal your body from the inside out, or you can apply the mixture to your feet. The immune-boosting abilities of this plant and the antifungal and antimicrobial benefits cannot be denied.

7. Vinegar

You can use vinegar for cooking with and cleaning your house, but did you know that it works great to get rid of fungus? Get a tub and put one-third vinegar to two-thirds water. Using warm water is advisable since it helps to open pores and allow the mixture to penetrate. Soak for about 20 minutes each day until you see an improvement.


nail funguwsFinal Thoughts on Ridding Yourself of Embarrassing Nail Fungus

Having a nail fungus is no fun, especially during the summer months when you want to wear sandals and flip flops. Thankfully, most cases can be treated with a home remedy. However, if you’ve tried several alternative medicines and nothing is working, you need to see your podiatrist. A foot fungus is serious, and nothing that should be let go.


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