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What Leads To Toenail Fungus & What Are Its Risk Factors?

Toenail fungus is an infection of the nail bed that causes discoloration and of thickening of the nail. It affects one or more nails at a time. Initially, when this infection starts, the white or yellow spot appears at the tip of the fingernail. As infection goes deeper in the nail, the nail becomes more thick, more discolored and crumbled at the edge. Its causes involve old age, athlete’s foot, minor skin or nail injury, diabetes, weak immune system, and others. This infection can be mild or severe. Mild infection of toenail does not require treatment. Even after successful treatment, toenail infection can return back.

What Leads To Toenail Fungus & What Are Its Risk Factors?

What Leads To Toenail Fungus?

Toenail fungus is an infectious disease characterized by discoloration and thickening of the toenail. It is also known as onychomycosis. It goes deep in the toenail and disrupts the integrity of the nail. The infected nail becomes discolored, thickened, and crumbled at the edge. It can be painful.(1)

Toenail fungus can develop in any person at any age. Its incidence is commonly marked in the old people who are above 60 years. It is more common in people who have weak immunity or have an immune compromised disease such as AIDS, diabetes, etc. If it is left untreated, it may spread to other nails.(1)

Toenail infection is led by a number of fungal organisms. It is most commonly caused by an organism namely dermatophyte. Yeasts and molds can also induce infections in the nail.(2)

Aging is one of the main causes of toenail infection. This happens because nail slowly becomes dry and brittle with the progressing age. It then results in the development of cracks in the nail. In these cracks, fungi enter and grow.(2)

Other causes of toenail infection include poor or diminished blood circulation to the feet and weak immunity. Diabetes is one of the main causes of fungal infection in the nails as a high sugar level in the body can promote frequent infections by fungi.(2)

The infectious fungi enter the nail through cut or break or discontinuation in the nail. It causes infection which is usually not related to self-hygiene. In many cases, it becomes difficult to determine the reason for the fungal infection in the nail. It is observed that the fungi grow in wet warm areas.(1)

The infection in toenail begins from the athlete’s foot. It has a tendency to spread to other nails too. It is rarely spread by other infected people.(1)

What Are The Risk Factors of Toenail Fungus?

The risk factors that can elevate the chances of developing toenail fungal infection involve old age, high perspiration, and medical history, athlete’s foot, walking barefoot, skin injury, diabetes, and weak immunity. As a person ages old, there is diminished blood supply to the skin. It increases the risk of increased exposure to fungi in old age. Those who sweat heavily are more at risk to acquire toenail infection. Those who develop athlete’s foot have a high risk to develop toenail infection. Those who work or are active in damp communal areas like swimming pools, gyms or shower rooms and always remain barefoot are more likely to catch this infection. Those who are prone to skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, or who have minor skin or nail injury are risked to get this infection. The individual who has weak immunity or circulation problems acquire this infection.(2)

Nail fungus can complicate and cause permanent damage to the nails that can spread to entire feet resulting in serious infections. In diabetes, such toenail infection can cause serious complication.(2)


Toenail infection is caused by fungi that enter the nails through cracks and cuts. These cuts and cracks appear due to old age (above 60 years), weak immune system, skin diseases like psoriasis, and others discussed above. Its risk factors involve old age, high perspiration, minor injury, and others mentioned above.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 1, 2019

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