The dermatophyte fungus is the top culprit when it comes to contracting fungal nail infections. This fungus is resilient in the environment and can thrive even without sunlight, so it’s no surprise that nail fungus is responsible for 50% of total nail abnormalities.
There’s no way to completely avoid exposure to dermatophytes, but preventing infection starts with being aware of the most common ways fungal nail infections are contracted. Here are 3 of the most common ways people find themselves at risk for contracting nail fungus:
1) Walking barefoot in damp public places
Locker rooms and public showers are places ripe with fungi, and where infections are easily transmittable. Because so many people often use these facilities and they may not always be adequately cleaned, surfaces never have a chance to dry and remain damp and warm throughout the day. When you take these conditions and mix them with a large group of people, many of whom may be exercising and introducing additional bacteria, it doesn’t take much to contract nail fungus.
2) Working out & athletics
People who work out regularly or engage in athletics are at a much higher risk for contracting nail fungus and other fungal infections. In fact, the most common dermatophyte, trichophyton rubrum, causes most cases of athlete’s foot, which can also infect the toenails.
When athlete’s perspire, their shoes and socks become warm and damp and create the conditions that fungi thrive in. Shoes, cleats, and hockey skates are also difficult to clean, thus making it easier for fungi to persist and cause infections.
3) Old age
This risk factor is uncontrollable, of course, but age plays a major factor in contracting nail fungus. As people get older, nails tend to thicken and grow more slowly, making them more susceptible to infection. On top of that, circulation to the body’s extremities often becomes more difficult. This, coupled with the generally weakened immune systems of older and elderly people, makes it harder for the body to fight of infections when exposed to fungi, and significantly increases the likelihood of fungal nail infections.
Decrease your chances of contracting nail fungus by staying aware of the risk factors and environments where fungi commonly appear. While you shouldn’t give up your gym membership or quit playing sports to avoid getting nail fungus, and there’s certainly nothing you can do to prevent aging -- remember to keep your nails neatly trimmed, clean, while avoiding walking directly on surfaces where fungi may be present. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to avoid an infection, but in taking simple precautions and being aware of your environment, you can significantly decreases the chances of dealing with nail fungus.