Is Toenail Fungus Contagious?

In just the foot alone, there are already dozens of different diseases and disorders that we may get, and one of those foot-related diseases is toenail fungus. The toenail fungus, as its name already suggests, is a disease where the nails on our feet are infected with a specific fungus. What exactly is a toenail fungus? And is it contagious? Let us find out as we take a closer look at toenail fungus, how they spread, and how they can be prevented or treated.

Onychomycosis

toenail with onychomycosis

A toenail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, is a common fungal infection on the toenails. There are different types of fungi that can cause an infection on the nails of the feet, but one of the most common types is dermatophyte, which is a specific type of fungi that inflicts skin disease on humans and animals. You will know that you have onychomycosis when your toenails are yellowish in appearance. In addition, the nails would also be thicker than normal, and they are usually brittle on the ends.

What are the Common Causes of Toenail Fungus?

There are many causes of onychomycosis or toenail fungus, but there are some that are more common than others. Here are the common causes of toenail fungus you should know about.

Dirty Feet

sleeping with dirty feet

One of the usual causes of toenail fungus is dirty feet or feet that aren’t cleaned properly during showers or baths. It is expected for fungi to be found in dirt and grime that is present outdoors, and when you walk or step on that dirt and grime, your toenails will most likely get infected with fungi. In addition, you may also get athlete’s foot from having dirty feet. Athlete’s foot is another fungal infection, but it affects the skin as opposed to the nails of your feet.

Walking Barefoot

Your feet would most likely get dirty whenever you are walking barefoot, particularly in outdoor areas. Moreover, you are more prone to getting toenail fungus when you are walking barefoot in public areas that are wet or damp, like publ ic swimming pools, shower areas, and bathrooms. [1] And, when you mix walking barefoot with not cleaning your feet regularly, it wouldn’t be surprising if you get toenail fungus sooner rather than later.

Sweaty Feet

woman with sweaty feet

Sweaty feet are also susceptible to toenail fungus, as sweat creates a lot of moisture that serves as the perfect breeding ground for fungi and bacteria. Most of the time, sweaty feet are unavoidable, especially if you are wearing socks and shoes most of the time. So, we cannot avoid having bacteria or fungi lurking on the interior of our shoes or on the surface of our feet. But our immune system is strong enough to fight fungi and bacteria to prevent infections.

Unfortunately, there are some of us that have hyperhidrosis, which is a condition wherein the sweat glands of our body produce too much sweat. So, the feet of those with hyperhidrosis will be much sweatier compared to most people, and the excessive sweat would then allow fungi and bacteria to grow and live longer on the skin and nails of the feet.

Weak Immune System

When you have a weak immune system, which occurs when you have a chronic illness like diabetes, you are more susceptible to getting toenail fungus, as your immune system doesn’t have enough firepower to fight back against the infection. The toenail fungus would even get worse when you have a disease that can cause poor blood circulation, as a constant supply of new blood is beneficial in the healing process of different skin conditions and illnesses on the feet.

Is Toenail Fungus Contagious?

doctor inspecting nails with onychomycosis

If you are wondering if toenail fungus is contagious, the short answer is yes, it is. Toenail fungus can be passed from one person to another through contact, and the fungus could even transfer to water or soil, and if the uninfected person touches or steps on the infected water or soil, then there is a high chance that he or she will get onychomycosis.

The contagious nature of toenail fungus is the reason why you should always clean your feet and avoid walking barefoot outdoors or in public areas. As much as possible, you should protect your feet from fungal infections, which you can easily do by wearing shoes in areas that are not cleaned properly or regularly.

Preventing and Treating Toenail Fungus

Thankfully, toenail fungus can easily be treated or prevented. Here are some of the best ways to prevent or treat onychomycosis.

Wash Your Feet Every Day

washing a foot

An easy method of preventing and treating toenail fungus is to wash your feet every day. If you don’t have toenail fungus yet, washing your feet can help in preventing fungi and bacteria from growing on your skin, as you will get rid of them regularly through the use of soap and water. 

If you already have onychomycosis, then washing your feet helps in reducing the ability of the fungi to continue growing and thriving in your nails and some parts of your feet’s skin. You can use a pumice stone for better results since it has a rough texture that is fairly effective in scrubbing away dirt, grime, and other harmful elements on the surface of your skin and nails.

Use Topical Medications

applying cream on an infected toenail

If the onychomycosis has gotten worse for your toenails, then you should already consult your healthcare provider for prescriptions. Most doctors would prescribe strong antifungal creams for your toenails, and these include tavaborole (Kerydin) and efinaconazole (Jublia). [1] To apply these antifungal creams, you must first soak your feet in warm water for a few minutes to let the nails soften, and then apply the cream on the surface of the nail after the feet are relatively dry.

Although toenail fungus is contagious, you can easily prevent it by simply wearing shoes, sandals, or slides so that your feet won’t touch the floor or ground that possibly has fungi. If you are usually walking barefoot at home, make sure that the floor of each room is cleaned and disinfected regularly.

References

[1] Mayo Clinic Staff. (2022, August 23). Nail fungus. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nail-fungus/symptoms-causes/syc-20353294