Medically called onychomycosis, toenail fungus affects as many as 10% of all adults in Western countries to some degree, and that increases to 20% for those over 60.
Nail fungus causes the nails to become thick, discolored, and crumbly at the edges. And while you can get an infection in your fingernails, it’s more common in the toenails.
At Chicagoland Foot and Ankle, our team of board-certified podiatrists knows that the same behaviors at public pools that allow for the spread of toenail fungus also lead to the development of plantar warts, which are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Here’s what you need to know about how to prevent infection from both at public pools.
What does nail fungus look like?
Nail fungus produces a number of characteristic symptoms:
- Thick nails
- White to yellowish-brown nails
- Crumbly or ragged nail edges
- Altered nail shape
- Debris buildup under the nails
The affected toe may also be painful and have a bad smell.
Causes, risks, and contagion
Fungal nail infections can result from any number of different fungi, yeasts, and molds.
If a dermatophyte is responsible for the infection, it’s called tinea unguium. A dermatophyte is a mold that feeds on keratin, a protein found in nails and hair. Dermatophytes cause some 90% of nail-related fungal infections.
The infection can easily spread from one toe to another, and it’s quite common for more than just one nail on a foot to be affected. When the infection spreads to the skin between the toes, it’s known as athlete’s foot. If it affects the groin area, it’s called jock itch. It can even spread to your scalp.
The infection spreads through direct contact or by touching an infected surface. The dermatophyte spreads from one person to another in the same way it gains access to your body, through small cracks and cuts in the soles of your feet you may not even know are there.
The strains of HPV that cause plantar warts enter your body through cracks in the soles of your feet, as well.
You can prevent both a fungal infection and an HPV infection in the same way, by always wearing shoes in public baths, locker rooms, and pools. Keep your feet clean and dry and your nails short and clean.
Do you want more tips on keeping your toenails happy? Do you have a fungal nail that needs treatment? At Chicagoland Foot and Ankle, we can help.
Call any of our locations, or book your appointment online today. We have offices in the Mount Greenwood and Portage Park areas of Chicago, and in Orland Park and New Lenox, Illinois.