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What Is Toenail Fungus?


Onychomycosis, the medical term for toenail fungus, is an infection that is caused by fungi that also causes athlete's foot. In fact, the two of them often occur together.

As a child, the toe nail fungus starts in the sole of the feet and progresses from there to the toenail bed. As a teenager, it can go to the groin and cause jock itch and sometimes to the body, causing ringworm. But the toenail is the ideal location for the toe nail fungus. Once it's there, it can stay for life.

Toenail fungus is actually very common and infects up to as much as 20% of the American population. As we age, the likelihood of getting toenail fungus increases to about 40% by age 70. The fungi that causes toenail fungus is everywhere, not only in hotel rooms, locker rooms and other public places, but also in most people's homes.

Toenail fungus is caused by a microorganism called a dermatophyte. This fungi lives on keratin, which is the protein that toenails are made of. It thrives in the dark, moist environment of sweaty feet.

Smoking raises the risk of contracting toenail fungus because it restricts circulation to the feet. So does diabetes, which also impairs circulation. Experts say that using nail polish has no effect as far as inviting or intensifying the toenail fungus.

Toenail fungus symptoms are easy to spot. Brittle or thickened toenails that may smell foul, dull color of the nail with white or yellow spots, and in advanced cases, brown or black spots or streaks are indications of toenail fungus.

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