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CAUSES OF TOENAIL FUNGUS
By Bethesda, MD & Springfield, VA Podiatrist, Dr. Paul Ross

How is toenail fungus caused? There are a number of ways people can “catch” a toenail fungus, and there are a variety of different types of fungus or mold that can cause toenail fungus if contact or exposure occurs.

Cause #1: Dermatophytes

Dermatophytes are a type of fungus that can grow on various places on the human body such as skin, hair, and nails. Trichophyton rubrum is the most common type of dermatophyte and causes athlete’s foot, which can cause toenail fungus by spreading.

There are many different ways you can get infected with this type of fungus through contact, including:

  • Clothing
  • Shoes
  • Carpet
  • Locker room floors
  • Showers
  • Shower room floors
  • Nail clippers
  • Nail files

Dermatophytes don’t invade deeper tissues and are the most common cause of fungal toenail infections.

Cause #2: Yeasts

Yes, you can get a yeast infection on your feet! Yeasts are a type of fungus that grows on the skin and nails and are normally present in the body. However, an overgrowth of yeast can be caused by several factors. Some of those factors are:

  • Taking antibiotic medications
  • Taking birth control pills
  • Immune system problems
  • Illness

Cause #3: Molds

These molds, also called nondermatophytes, usually grow in soil but can also grow on the skin and nails. This infection is not usually passed on between people, but you can get it if you’re exposed to soil containing the mold.

If you’re more susceptible to fungal infections, you’re more likely to get one after exposure. If you’re less susceptible, you may be exposed but never have an issue. Oftentimes, people who have had a fungal infection are more susceptible to another one even after successful treatment. Remember: toenail fungus likes warm, dark, moist environments, which is why they tend to grow on the feet, especially if you have to wear shoes for long periods at a time.

Prevention of Fungal Infections

There are a number of things that can be done to help prevent toenail fungus, as well as keep them away when you’ve completed a treatment. Some ways to prevent a toenail fungal infection include:

  • Keep your feet dry.
  • Wear socks and make sure they stay dry.
  • Don’t injure your nails; trimming them is a common cause of injury so be careful or have a pedicure.
  • Wear shower shoes when using a public shower or pool.
  • When you wear shoes, make sure they’re roomy and breathable.
  • Don’t share socks, shoes, nail clippers, or nail files.
  • Use an antifungal spray or powder.
  • Keep your feet clean.
  • Get rid of old shoes.
  • Don’t pick at the skin around your nails.
  • Stop using nail polish if you use it.

There are a number of causes and preventative measures you can take to avoid them, but if you find that you’ve gotten a toenail fungal infection, it might be time to consult with a Bethesda, MD Podiatrist or Springfield, VA Podiatrist. If you have diabetes, it is incredibly important to take good care of your feet, so even if your fungal infection is mild, please come in to one of our podiatry offices in Bethesda, MD or Springfield, VA! This seemingly small problem can easily and quickly spiral out of control, and we’re here to help keep that from happening. We even offer same day appointments, so give us a call at 301-656-6055.


The Podiatry Centers treat all medical and surgical foot and ankle conditions. Licensed Bethesda, MD Podiatrist, Dr. Paul Ross can help bring you foot and ankle pain relief.

Our Bethesda, Maryland (MD) and Springfield, Virginia (VA) Podiatry offices offer the most effective and state-of-the-art, quality podiatry care services with a smile to patients in our local community, including: Woodbridge VA, Fairfax VA, Annandale VA, Arlington VA, Alexandria VA, Burke VA, Gaithersburg MD, Potomac MD, Silver Spring MD, Rockville MD and Chevy Chase MD.

Return to a pain-free life and get back to the things you love!


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