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WHAT IS TOENAIL FUNGUS?
By Bethesda, MD & Springfield, VA Podiatrist, Dr. Paul Ross

Put simply, onychomycosis (or toenail fungus) is an infection on or under the surface of the nail caused by fungi. When a toenail infection is present, the nail may lift from the nail bed allowing debris to get in. The infection can spread to other toenails, the skin, and to fingernails. In some cases, the thickening of the nail is so bad that it becomes difficult to trim the toenail, wear shoes, or even walk.

Toenail fungus is the most common disease of the nails. It makes up about 50% of all nail abnormalities. Though both fingernails and toenails can be affected, fungus most commonly occurs in the toenails. The condition affects roughly 7% of the adult population.

What Factors Increase The Likelihood Of Getting a Toenail Fungus Infection?

Men are more likely to get toenail fungus than women, and the elderly are more likely to get toenail fungus than the young. Here are some other factors to consider:

  • Genetics
  • Wearing shoes and socks that don’t “breathe”
  • Tight shoes
  • Slow-growing nails
  • Bad circulation
  • Humid work environment
  • Injury or infection of the skin or nail (even if it’s healed)
  • Walking barefoot in damp public places
  • Heavy perspiration
  • Diabetes
  • AIDS
  • Weakened immune system

Is Toenail Fungus Contagious?

Yes! Toenail fungus is contagious, which is why it can be contracted by walking barefoot in damp public places like swimming pools, the gym, locker rooms, or shower rooms. It can also spread to the skin, resulting in athlete’s foot.

How Is a Nail Fungus Infection Treated?

A doctor will usually prescribe oral medications, topical creams, and other medicines to help treat the toenail fungus. In most cases, it can take months before the infection is cleared or a new toenail grows in to replace the infected one. In extreme cases, the doctor may opt to surgically remove the entire toenail.

There are some home remedies that can be tried before going to see a Bethesda, MD Podiatrist or Springfield, VA Podiatrist, like grapefruit seed extract or tea tree oil, but these may or may not work as well as medications.

Preventative Measures

Proper hygiene is key, as well as avoiding certain activities and habits. Here are some things you can do to help prevent a toenail fungus infection.

  • Wear socks that breathe.
  • Keep your toenails properly trimmed and your feet clean.
  • Don’t pick at or bite your nails.
  • Don’t share shoes and socks with others.
  • Use antifungal powders or sprays.
  • If you get pedicures, make sure your salon uses properly sterilized tools.
  • Wear shoes in public places.
  • Don’t use nail polish.

If you aren’t sure how severe your toenail fungus is, have tried home remedies and not seen results, or simply want to get a solid diagnosis, we’re here to help! Dr. Paul Ross of The Podiatry Center of Bethesda, MD and Springfield, VA is available for same-day appointments, so if you’d like to schedule an appointment, please give us a call at 301-656-6055.


The Podiatry Centers located in Bethesda, Maryland (MD) and Springfield, Virginia (VA) treat all medical and surgical foot and ankle conditions. Licensed 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.

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