Toenail fungus is a condition where a fungus or mold infects the nail tissue, entering between your toenail and toenail bed (the tissue right underneath your toenail) through a crack or cut in your toe. The nail becomes brittle, discolored, and unsightly. While not generally a serious medical condition, you shouldn’t take it lightly and should seek treatment.
At Monroe Foot & Ankle Care, board-certified podiatrist Dr. Elliott Perel and our team see many cases of toenail fungus at their practice in Jamesburg, New Jersey. One patient concern is if the fungus can spread to their fingernails. Here’s what the experts have to say.
Who gets toenail fungus?
Anyone can get toenail fungus, especially people over 60. And medical experts estimate it affects 1 in 10 people overall.
You have an increased risk of getting toenail fungus if you have:
- Athlete’s foot (another type of fungal infection)
- Hyperhidrosis (sweat a lot)
- A toenail injury
- Poor blood circulation from peripheral vascular disease
- A weakened immune system
You’re also more likely to pick up a fungus if you walk barefoot in warm, wet, public places, like locker rooms or saunas.
What is tinea unguium?
Tinea unguium, also known as onychomycosis, is a toenail fungus caused by a dermatophyte, a mold that needs the protein keratin to grow. Keratin is the main structural component of your hair and nails, and in the case of the latter, it’s what makes them hard. Dermatophytes cause 90% of toenail fungal infections.
Tinea unguium can change your toenail’s appearance, including:
- Appears white, yellow, or brown
- Appears chalky or cloudy in some spots
- Thickens the structure
- Appears misshapen
- Separates from your nail bed
- Cracks or breaks
While toenail fungus can be unsightly, it usually isn’t painful.
Is tinea unguium contagious, and can it spread to your fingernails?
Many types of toenail fungi, including tinea unguium, are contagious. You can spread the fungus to someone else (or pick it up from someone else) through direct contact. You can also get it by touching an infected surface.
Toenail fungus rarely spreads beyond your toe, but some dermatophyte fungi spread easily to other parts of your skin. When dermatophyte fungi affect the skin, the condition is known as ringworm.
Toenail fungus may spread to:
- Other toenails
- Skin between your toes (athlete’s foot)
- Groin area (jock itch)
- Scalp (skin on top of your head)
- Fingernails (also made of keratin)
Different fungal species prefer different areas of the body.
Are you bothered by unsightly toenail fungus? Then it’s time to schedule a consultation at Monroe Foot & Ankle Care with Dr. Perel for expert treatment. To get started, give our office a call at 732-521-6166, or book online with us today.