Can Toenail Fungus Spread to Your Other Toes?

Oct 26, 2020

If you have a fungal toenail infection, the last thing you want is more of it. Even one discolored, thick, brittle, jagged, and/or misshapen toenail is already more than enough.

Unfortunately, the answer to the question of whether toenail fungus to spread to other toes is a definite yes. And not only can it spread to more of your toes, it can also spread to your fingernails, your skin, and other people as well! 

How does the fungus spread so easily, and what can you do to fight back? We’re happy to help you with that!

toenail fungus spread

Toenail Fungus Knows How to Get Around

The fungus that causes thick, brittle toenails belongs to a group called dermatophytes. 

Dermatophytes love embedding themselves into the nails because they rely on a protein called keratin to thrive – and your nails are filled with it. The harder, tougher composition of the nail also provides them with good protection, which is why getting rid of fungal nails can often be a challenge.

However, your nails are not the only place you can find keratin. The protein is also found in your skin and hair. Dermatophytes can live on and around them too, and you might have already experienced the results of that in your life.

Athlete’s foot is one way a dermatophyte infection can show up on your skin. The fungi that are causing cracked, itchy and raw skin are the same ones that can cause your fungal toenails.

What does this ultimately mean? If you have athlete’s foot, it can potentially spread into a fungal infection of your toenails – and vice versa! All the fungus needs is enough of an opening to get in and establish itself. If there are weaknesses in the skin around your toenails, that can increase your risk of a fungal toenail infection.

And naturally, if the fungus can travel between your own nails and skin, it can travel from your nails to someone else’s skin or nails, too. It is not the most contagious condition in the world but, given the right circumstances, transmission can definitely happen. And do you want to be the one blamed for passing on a fungus to a loved one? 

No. You don’t want that.

Tips for Preventing the Spread of Toenail Fungus

If you are currently living with toenail fungus, you don’t have to run off and be a hermit in the mountains to avoid passing on the infection to others. There are many simple things you can do to greatly limit the chances of transmitting the fungus to someone else and help keep it from spreading further on yourself as well.

Be Courteous with Toenail Clippers

When using a pair of toenail clippers, it’s important that they only be used for your nails and your nails alone.

It can be easy for fungus to catch a ride on your clippers, so nobody else should even touch them. Don’t even let them mingle with other clippers or tools.

Additionally, never use your toenail clippers on your fingernails. Not only can you easily transmit the fungus from your toenails to your fingernails that way, but actual toenail clippers are typically too big for the job. Use dedicated fingernail clippers instead.

It also doesn’t hurt to periodically clean and sterilize your clippers. You can soak them in rubbing alcohol for 30 minutes, and/or scrub them with an old toothbrush using warm water and dish soap. Make sure to thoroughly dry them off afterward with a clean paper towel to prevent rusting.

Cover Your Feet in High-Traffic Areas

Fungus loves environments that are warm and damp. This makes locker rooms, gyms, and public pool areas more likely locations to facilitate spread. 

Much is said about protecting your feet from picking up fungi in these places, but it is equally helpful for those who already have them to wear protection as well. Wearing aqua socks or shower shoes that cover your nails will help limit any potential for contamination.

Keep Shoes Dry (and To Yourself)

Locker rooms aren’t the only places that have favorable conditions for fungus. Shoes can fit the bill quite well, too!

Letting shoes dry out is a good way to keep fungus from living on inside of them. One of the best ways to do this is by switching between your shoes every day, giving your previous pair at least 24 hours to dry before wearing them again.

If your feet sweat excessively or you work or play in a wet environment, investing in a shoe dryer may also be a good idea. That will help your footwear be ready for you by the time you need it again.

Putting some anti-fungal powder or spray in your shoes while they dry off is also a pretty good idea. Just don’t go overboard and dump so much powder into your shoes that it makes your feet slide around within them.

Start Taking Care of your Fungal Toenails Now!

If you don’t want to worry about potentially spreading toenail fungus, the best thing you can do is get rid of it for good!

Fungal toenail treatment is not an immediate process. It can be challenging, depending on how ingrained the fungus is, and it may take several months or longer to fully eradicate it. But the sooner you start attacking the fungus, the sooner you can greatly reduce or completely eliminate its presence.

It’s well worth having a consultation with us so we can take a look at the extent of your fungal infection and make our best recommendations for how you should move forward. We might suggest laser treatment, topical or oral antifungal medications, or even a combination of methods.

Call either of our offices to schedule an appointment with us and take the first step toward confronting the fungus. We’ll be happy to see you!