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Fungal Infections of the Toenails

Fungal infections of the toenails or onychomycoses, is a common infection affecting 2 millions people in Canada in which microorganisms attack the nail. The infection is present under the nail, allowing the nail to protect the organism during its growth. This is one the challenges faced when attempting to treat toenail fungal infections.

Fungi thrive in hot, moist environments and thus socks and shoes help maintain the perfect conditions for its growth.

The organism responsible for these infection may be transmitted from one person to another due to its ability to live in dark humid environments and in areas where people walk barefoot: showers, bathrooms, hotels and locker rooms. This infection may infect adjacent toes. The infection is also frequently transmitted through instruments used in beauty salons.

How does the infection penetrate the toenail? Any circumstance involving damage to the nail may cause this: dropping a heavy object on the toes, trauma associated with sport shoes, or uncomfortable, tight shoes that pinch the toes.

Patients that are at risk to develop fungal infections of the toenails include:

  • Those that shower at the gym.
  • Those that use public pools.
  • Those whose feet perspire heavily.
  • Those that are athletic, including runners and dancers.
  • Those that have had an athlete’s foot infection in the past.
  • Those that have visited unclean beauty salons.
  • Those older than 65 years of age.
  • Those that have a lower leg circulation problem, diabetes or an immune illness (such as AIDS/VIH).

Fungal infections of the nail turn the color of the nail to yellow, white green, brown or black. These nails may break easily and may be associated with a disagreeable odor. The nail may grow in thickness more than in length and may cause discomfort due to the increased pressure within the shoe. Without treatment, the infection gets worse, more generalized and more uncomfortable.