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What is Toenail Fungus?

Toenail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, affects millions of people every year. Studies have even shown that almost 1 of every five people on the planet will have toenail fungus at some point in their lives.

No one wants this ugly and often painful condition. While effective treatments are available, fighting toenail fungus can be a long and costly process. Prevention is always better than any cure. To prevent toenail fungus, you must know first understand the causes.

What causes toenail fungus?

Toenail fungal infection is usually be caused by one of several fungi that belong to the dermatophytes (derm-AT-oh-fites) group. Yeasts and molds also can be responsible for toenail fungal infections. All of them are microscopic organisms which live and thrive in warm, moist environments, such as swimming pools and showers.

These tiny organisms are so small that they can invade your feet through nearly any break in your skin, including undetected cuts or a small gap between your nail and nail bed. Wearing sandals or shower shoes in areas like public showers can reduce your exposure to the micro-organisms that cause toenail fungus, but it is nearly impossible to avoid the fungi completely.

Fortunately, these fungi only cause real problems when they get the warmth and moisture they require to thrive. Unfortunately, your feet can provide exactly the type of warm, moist environment the fungi need to grow.

Although infection with nail fungus also occurs in fingernails, it is seen much more often in toenails because toenails spend much of their time in the dark, warm, moist environment inside your shoes. In addition, your toes get less blood circulation than your fingers, which may make it harder for your body's immune system to detect and fight the infection.