What Causes Nail Fungus? Nail Infections? Am I At Risk?
Fungal Nail Infections or so-called nail infections are often a combination of several contributing factors, which range from your choice of footwear, to your personal hygiene levels, your family’s medical history and even the part of the world you live in!
Nail infections are more common amongst the elderly, and that your susceptibility to them increases as you grow older. This is because your nail growth slows down with age, as does the circulation of blood in your body, and your immunity. Nail Fungal Infections or commonly called nail infections are most predominant in people over the age of 60, especially when accompanied by diabetes, or circulation problems.
While most salons maintain meticulous hygiene standards, there are also those that neglect to sterilize their equipment after every use. In such instances, if the previous client has fungal nail infection or any type of nail infections, using the same emery board, or clippers, may spread the infection to you.
Injuries to your hands, feet and nails:
Any injuries to your toes and fingers, especially the area around the nails, are possible inlets through which fungi can slink into your body. Toenail damage is especially attributed to poorly fitting shoes which, while inflicting your feet with blisters and abrasions, hence creating surreptitious doorways through which the fungi find their way to your nails and you end up getting nail infections.
To better understand this prolific condition, let’s first acquaint ourselves with the three basic kinds of infections your nails are susceptible to:
Dermatophytes are microscopic fungi which infect your hair, skin, and nails. These little critters are notorious for their feeding habits, as their primary source of food is keratin-based tissue, of which your nails are an abundant source.
Dermatophytes are the most common cause of nail fungal infections, and are also responsible for a number of other conditions like the ‘jock itch’, and athlete’s foot. Dermatophyte infections are very contagious, given that an afflicted person will continually shed tiny fragments of infected skin. Hence, you are at a high risk of contracting this infection if you tend to walk barefoot in damp public places like swimming pools, saunas, cloakrooms, dance halls, and theater stages… to name a few.
Yeast or Candida Infections are most common in people whose nails are over-exposed to moisture, and are attributed a handsome 8% of all nail fungus cases. Individuals prone to yeast infections are often involved in industries which require them to wash their hands very often, like the heath care and food and catering industries. Candida is also responsible for a number of other infections like diaper rash and oral thrush.
Mould-influenced nail infections most commonly afflict toenails, as these variants of microscopic fungi are most likely to sneak under your nails when you walk barefoot on earth.
While these three kinds of fungal infections have their own ways of finding their way into their cubby hole between your nail bed, and nail plate, there are certain other Risk Factors that augment your changes of contracting nail fungus. These include:
Recent research seems to indicate that fungal nail infections are more common in those who are genetically predisposed; however, the medical fraternity is still largely divided about how significant a role your genes have to play in how susceptible you are.
A Suppressed Immune System and Nail Infections
Your body is most prone to developing fungal infections when your immune system is compromised, or not functioning at its optimal level. The reasons for this diminished immunity can be many; some of the most common factors include:
Immunosuppressive diseases like AIDS, Diabetes, and Cushing’s Syndrome
Medication or immunosuppressive treatments like chemotherapy
Genetic diseases like Downs Syndrome
Impaired Blood Circulation Disorders:
These include Varicose Veins and Diabetes.
Can cause thickened nails, or lead your nails to separate from the nail bed, like psoriasis and lichen.
Irregularities in the feet:
Irregularities like overlapping toes, or a sticking out big toe, can lead your toenails to separate from the nail bed, or thicken.
Poorly fitting shoes can cramp your feet too tight, cutting off circulation of blood to the extremities, while the inadequate ventilation produces warm, stuffy conditions within your footwear – both are ideal breeding grounds for nail fungi. Athletes are invariably a lot more likely to contract nail fungus, as their routine often involves long hours of wearing poorly aired, sweaty socks, and footwear.
If you aren’t accustomed to airing your shoes after you wear them, or don’t change your socks too often, the perspiration in them creates welcome grounds for nail fungal growth, which then infest your feet as soon as you slip on the infected footwear. Over time, stuffing your feet into shoes that don’t let them ‘breathe’, can even lead to irregularities, cuts, calluses, and blood clots in your feet, which in effectively double your chances of contracting fungal nail infections.
The heat, and humidity in public shower stalls, bathrooms, and locker rooms are again, cozy hideouts for nail fungi. Further, most people tend to walk barefoot in these places, whereupon the fungi escape to warm puddles of water on the floor, waiting for your unsuspecting feet to step right into them.
Your Lifestyle and Nail Infections
If your work, or personal habits, leads you to wearing closed shoes for prolonged periods, you are at a considerable risk of falling prey to nail fungi. This risk is especially exacerbated if you perspire heavily, as a lot of your perspiration builds up in your footwear, increasing the chances of fungal infestation.
On the other hand, walking barefoot in places like parks, gardens, or forest land, heighten your chances of developing mould infections.
Professionals in the healthcare and catering industry may also be at an increased risk of fungal nail infections, as their frequent contact with food, and water, make their susceptible to contracting hand mycosis infections.
Nail Polish and Acrylic Nails:
Given the unsightly nature of fungal nail infections, the first and most common reaction to signs of fungal growth, is to try and conceal it with nail polish, or artificial plastic or acrylic nails. Unfortunately, even though you may think that you are doing a remarkably good job of not letting the infection show, you are in fact helping it thrive and flourish!
Nail polish, artificial nails, or any kind of nail treatment that coats your nails, fortifies the moisture barrier, trapping in the damp, the warmth, and even the fungi. Even if your fingers and toes are infection-free, suffocating your nails by continually plastering them with layers or color, or stuffy acrylic nails can remarkably increase your chances of developing fungal nail infection.
Blood Glucose-Related Illnesses:
Conditions like diabetes, or hyperglycemia, where the glucose levels in your blood stream rise to unhealthily high levels, increase your susceptibility to fungal infections, as the sugar in your blood nourishes the wayward fungi and encourages their growth. Diabetes deserves special mention here, as the poor circulation and high levels of blood glucose that diabetics are prone to, make them easy prey to fungal infection.
Statistics reveal than fungal nail infections are more common amongst the elderly, and that your susceptibility to them increases as you grow older. This is because your nail growth slows down with age, as does the circulation of blood in your body, and your immunity. Nail Fungal Infections are most predominant in people over the age of 60, especially when accompanied by diabetes, or circulation problems. So be wary when you fall into this group that can contract nail infections.