You can contract nail fungus through nail injury, warm moist environments, and wearing closed-toe footwear.
More Info: Nail fungus infections, medically referred to as onyshomycosis, affect 12% of Americans, and account for half of all nail problems. The most common types of fungi that attack the nail bed are dermatophytes and Candida. Dermatophytes is more likely to attack the toenail whereas Candida, or yeast, is more likely to attack the fingernail.
Fungal infections in nails start as a small discoloration, which may be yellow or white. As the infection progresses deeper into the nail bed, the nail begins to thicken, discolor, and ultimately crumble at the edges. Nail infections are difficult to treat and can often be painful. Understanding the causes may help you to prevent future outbreaks.
Injury to Nails
One cause of nail fungus is having skin or nail injuries around the toes. Fungi cannot infect healthy, undamaged nails. In order to infiltrate into a toenail or fingernail, the fungus must locate an opening in the skin. Because fungal spores are so tiny, they are able to infiltrate even the smallest cuts. Cuts that are not adequately covered and sterilized are particularly vulnerable to fungal infection.
Dark, Warm, Moist Environments
Fungi thrive in very warm, moist environments. Nail fungus frequently stems from exposure to such environments; examples include swimming pools, locker rooms, and group showers. Nail fungus only becomes a problem when feet are frequently exposed to very warm and moist conditions. It is for this reason that athletes and frequent gym-goers tend to suffer from nail fungus. Fungal infections from such areas can be avoided by wearing sandals or some other form of footwear in warm, moist areas that are frequented by a large number of people.
A leading cause of nail fungus is frequent wearing of closed toe shoes. Because fungi don’t need sunlight to survive and thrive in warm, moist environments, athletic shoes in particular are breeding grounds in which fungus thrive. Avoid wearing shoes that are damp, dry them thoroughly after wearing, and give your feet plenty of air time.
Nail Fungus & Nail Health.” American Academy of Dermatology. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 June 2010. http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/common_nail.html.
“Nail Infection, Fungal (Onychomycosis) in Adults: Condition, Treatment and Pictures – Overview | skinsight.” skinsight | expert insights about skin care, skin health, and skin disease. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 June 2010. http://www.skinsight.com/adult/onychomycosis.htm.
“Nail Fungus: All – MayoClinic.com.” Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living – MayoClinic.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 June 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/nail-fungus/DS00084/DSECTION=all&METHOD=print.