A handful of opportunistic fungi are the cause of toe nail fungus infection. Most of us are familiar with a few types of fungi – the green fluffy fungus that grows on old bread and stale muffins, and the powdery green or blue mold that sometimes grows on oranges. then there are the ones we eat: mushrooms, the fungi that make cheese out of milk, and yeasts used to make bread, wine, and beer. These are friendly fungi – they are not the cause of toenail fungus.
Fungi, collectively called dermatophytes (derm-at-oh-fights), are the most common toenail fungus cause. These organisms prefer to live on the skin and nails of people and animals, flourishing in dead skin cells and getting nourishment from keratin, a protein found in nails, skin, hair, feathers, and animal horn. Some dermatophytes tend to infect only humans; others we share with various animals. In addition to the dermatophytes, a few environmental fungi, found in soil and decaying plant material can be the cause of toe nail fungus infection. Yeasts too, like the one that causes yeast infections in women, and an infection called thrush, in the mouth, are another toenail fungus cause.
An opportunistic fungus is just that – it waits for an opportunity, and then it moves in. this means that circumstance is another cause of toe nail fungus. Fungi do well where it’s moist, and warm, so they like sweaty damp feet. they also need a route of entry; damaged toenails and injured or irritated skin will let a fungus in where it can start to grow. Finally, the fungus has to get past the immune system: natural immunity, our bodies’ ability to fight off an infection stops a fungus from causing toenail fungus infection in most cases. an immune system that isn’t quite up to snuff, then, can be a toenail fungus cause: diabetics, organ transplant recipients, AIDS patients, and people who are taking drugs, are more likely to get toenail fungus infections. this means that many things can be the cause, yet lots of healthy people with signs of toenail fungus never know how or why they got it.
Signs of toenail fungus include yellowed or brown toenails. after a while the toenail gets thicker, starts to lift away from the nail bed and becomes fragile and crumbly – the fungus is breaking down the protein in the nail and releasing chemicals that damage surrounding healthy tissue. this leads to more advanced signs of toenail fungus: the tissue becomes inflamed and the infected toe begins to hurt. When infected tissue dies, the toenail fungus will have more dead skin cells to help it grow.
Whatever the cause of toe nail fungus, left untreated it can become a very painful and damaging infection. Watch for signs of toenail fungus and catch it early. the sooner you start treatment, the better off you’ll be.
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