How to Keep Toenail Fungus from Spreading

Jan 03, 2024
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Toenail fungus is common, in part because it spreads very easily. Learn how fungal infections happen and what you can do to eliminate the infection and avoid passing it to someone else.

As many as 14% of Americans have at least one fungal toenail, according to the CDC, along with the unsightly and uncomfortable symptoms they can cause. Many people suffer from yellow discoloration, nail thickening, and pain, especially when you apply pressure to the nail.

But as annoying and unpleasant as those symptoms can be, one other characteristic often goes unnoticed: Toenail fungus and it’s highly contagious.

At Performance Foot & Ankle Specialists, LLC, in Waterbury and Newtown, Connecticut, Joel S Segalman, FACFAS, FACFAO, and Stephen Lazaroff, DPM, FACFAS, offer advanced, effective treatments for toenail fungus. If you have one or more fungal toenails, here’s how to prevent spreading the infection to someone else.

Quick facts about toenail fungus

Also called onychomycosis, toenail fungal infections happen when tiny fungal bodies invade your skin through cuts, blisters, scrapes, or other skin openings. Once the fungi enter your body, they start multiplying, establishing colonies under the protection of the hard nail.

The fungi that cause toenail fungus are in many public areas, especially damp areas, like public pools, showers, saunas, and locker rooms. After the initial infection, your shoes create a warm, moist environment that provides ideal circumstances for fungal growth.

Fungal nail infections can affect anyone, but they’re more common among people who:

  • Have diabetes
  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Have a toe injury
  • Have a nail deformity or unusual nail shape
  • Have poor circulation
  • Are prone to fungal and other types of infections
  • Have athlete’s foot

A fungal infection can pave the way for other infections, in some instances, by weakening the skin around the nail, making it easier for other germs to enter your skin.

How toenail fungus spreads

Toenail fungal infections easily spread from one person to another, which is why infections are so common. Toenail fungus is also highly adaptable, and once an infection establishes itself, it’s almost impossible to get rid of it without professional medical treatment.

You can spread toenail fungus through direct, skin-to-skin contact. But you can also pass the infection to someone else by sharing shoes, socks, and towels. 

Because the fungus lives on surfaces like damp floors and pool decks, you can spread an infection simply by walking barefoot in these environments, much like athlete’s foot, another common fungal infection.

Keep your infection from spreading

The best way to prevent toenail infection from spreading to others is to have the infection treated promptly. Dr. Lazaroff and Dr. Segalman help patients eradicate stubborn toenail fungus with custom treatment plans, typically beginning with topical or oral medications (or both). 

If these treatments don’t work, our team offers laser therapy to kill the fungus at its roots, under your nails, and inside your skin. 

Laser treatments don’t require any anesthesia or incisions, and there’s no need to remove your nail. Most people benefit from up to three treatments to eliminate the fungus so your nail can recover.

In the meantime, don’t share shoes, socks, or towels with others. Wear sandals or shower shoes when walking in any public area — even dry or carpeted areas — and change your socks frequently, especially if your feet are sweating. Make sure to wash your feet daily and dry them thoroughly afterward.

Help for fungal toenails

Fungal infections respond best when treated early. To learn how we can help you eliminate embarrassing fungal toenail infections, request an appointment online or over the phone with the Performance Foot & Ankle Specialists team today.