What can cause a fungal nail infection?

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Worried you might have a fungal nail infection? Wondering what might have caused it? Let’s take a look at what can cause a fungal nail infection.

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What can cause a fungal nail infection?

Fungal nail infections are quite common and occur in people of all ages, but most at risk are older adults. This is because as we age, our nails become more brittle and dry. As a result, cracks form in the nails allowing fungi such as dermatophytes, candida or moulds to enter. A weakened immune system and poor circulation also play a role in the likelihood of getting an infection. 

Fungal nail infections can often develop from untreated tinea, commonly known as Athlete’s foot. So make sure to treat any tinea as early as possible to help prevent fungal nails. If you’re unsure, seek advice from your podiatrist. They will be able to guide you regarding what has caused the infection, and how best to treat it.

Most common risk factors that can cause a fungal nail infection


As we age, the blood flow carrying nutrients or our nails reduces. This often results in slower growing, brittle nails. This in conjunction with the increased amount of potential exposure to various fungi coming in contact with the nails over the years makes age a risk factor.

Excess Sweating 

Fungi like dark, moist environments. Having sweaty feet can promote proliferation of the fungus and increase your risk of a fungal infection taking hold. Excessively sweaty feet (hyperhidrosis) can be due to various medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism or anxiety. They can also be due to simple physical causes such as thick socks and occlusive footwear and in particular footwear with waterproofing. 

Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s foot)

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the skin on the feet, often in between the toes. This is a risk factor for fungal nails as it can easily spread from the keratin in the skin to that of the nail.

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Barefoot Walking

Walking barefoot increases the likelihood of coming in contact with various fungi. The likelihood is increased again when going to more public places particularly where moist environments can harbour the fungal growth such as: public showers, pools and gyms. 

Nail Injuries or medical Skin Conditions

Injuries or conditions such as psoriasis can increase your chances of getting a fungal infection as they damage the nail and allow opportunistic fungus a chance to penetrate the nail plate.

Weakened Immune System

A weakened immune system, whether caused by age, certain medications or medical conditions such as diabetes, can increase the risk of infection as your body is less likely to fight off the infection that it otherwise if you’re immunocompromised. This can also further complicate treatment of the condition as well as complete resolution with many patients who have weakened immune systems having recurrence of fungal infections. 

Take the first step towards happy and healthy feet.

Ready to give your feet the care they deserve? Book your appointment online or call us and experience our expert podiatry services at any of our six clinic locations.