Is A Fungal Nail Infection Contagious?
As we’ve all become overly aware over the last couple of years, infections can spread quickly. Regardless of what type of infection it is, a single case has the possibility of spreading to one person who passes it on to another, who passes it on to another, and so on. While certain infections may be easier to spread than others, and some are less commonly known, it’s important to remember that prevention is always better than cure for all types of infections— including fungal nails.
This article explains what a fungal nail infection is, what can cause it, and how it may be treated. For personalised advice, contact our team at Midland Podiatry today.
What Is A Fungal Nail Infection?
Fungal nail infections, or nail fungus, are common conditions that can affect anybody of any age. It is most common in those aged over 65, and least common in children under 6 years of age.
A fungal nail infection often begins as a white or yellow-brown spot under a fingernail or toenail. If left untreated the infection may become more profound and result in the nail discolouring, thickening, and crumbling at the edge. Fungal nail infections may also cause misshapen nails, nails separated from the nail bed, and foot odour. The condition may be mild or severe and may be painful in some cases. Fungal nail infections can affect any number of nails at once.
What Causes Fungal Nail Infections?
Fungal nail infections are caused by microscopic organisms called fungi. These fungi are looking for a warm, moist place to grow, and under your nails is a perfect environment for them. This is especially so if your nails are frequently moist, such as if you don’t dry off properly after showering or swimming, or if you wear sweaty socks and shoes. The fungi can get into small cuts or cracks in your nail or the surrounding skin, leading to an infection.
While anybody can be at risk of developing a fungal nail infection, certain factors may increase your risk. These factors include:
- Being over 65 years of age
- Living in a hot, humid location
- Frequently having wet feet or hands
- Spending a lot of time in water
- Wearing tight-fitting, closed-toe shoes
- Having sweaty feet
- Wearing plastic gloves for long periods of time
- Having a weakened immune system due to medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, or HIV
- Undergoing chemotherapy
- Having received an organ transplant
- Having a nail or skin infection, including athlete’s foot
- Recently undergoing nail surgery or having recently injured a nail
- Having poor circulation
- Having psoriasis
Is A Fungal Nail Infection Contagious?
Fungal nail infections are contagious. It is possible to develop an infection due to an overgrowth of the fungus already on your body, but it is also often contracted through contact with the bacteria.
If somebody in your household has a fungal nail infection, you are at increased risk of contracting it if you walk barefoot in areas they have also walked barefoot. This also applies if you frequent wet areas barefoot such as swimming pool locker rooms, where the bacteria live due to the warm and moist conditions.
It is also possible to contract a fungal nail infection through improperly cleaned shared instruments. This may happen if you get your nails done at a salon where the staff have not thoroughly cleaned the equipment. In these cases, the bacteria may be living on an instrument that they then use on you, passing the infection onto you.
How To Prevent Fungal Nail Infections
Everybody should be taking steps to reduce their chance of contracting a fungal nail infection. However, this is especially important for people with weakened immune systems or who are otherwise at higher risk. Tips to remember to decrease your chances of acquiring a fungal nail infection include:
- Wearing shoes or sandals in public areas
- Wearing thongs or sandals in wet public areas such as public swimming pools
- Keeping your toenails trimmed and clean
- Drying your feet well after showering or swimming
- Keeping your feet dry
- Washing your hands thoroughly if you come into contact with a nail with fungus
- Limiting your use of nail polish and artificial nails
- Ensuring any nail salon you go to properly sterilises their equipment
- Treating any infections such as athlete’s foot as soon as possible
Treatment For Fungal Nail Infections
Anybody with a fungal nail infection should see a podiatrist for treatment as early as possible, especially if you have diabetes or another condition that may make it more difficult to treat. Treatment options typically include topical treatments such as medicated nail polish or nail cream, oral medications, and laser treatment.
The treatment for you will depend on your individual circumstances such as the severity of the infection and the fungus that has caused it, so it’s best to see a podiatrist so they can determine the best cause of action.
Say Goodbye To Fungal Nails
With over 30 years of experience in helping people with fungal nail infections, we’re here to do all we can to get your toes back in the sand as quickly as possible. If a fungal nail infection is affecting you, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with our professional and caring today.