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Can I Spread Toenail Fungus to My Partner?

Oct 02, 2023
Could fungal toenails become a shared experience? Unfortunately, yes. Read the facts about the contagious nature of toenail fungus, and learn what you can do to stop it from spreading.

Diagnosing and treating fungal toenails is one of the many podiatry services we offer at Metroplex Foot and Ankle, LLP. With locations in Dallas, Garland, and Richardson, Texas, we’re happy to provide the care you need for healthy feet.

Our expert team also focuses on preventing the problems that affect your feet and ankles. Learn more about toenail fungus, including the steps you can take to prevent its spread to your partner — or anyone else.

How common are fungal toenail infections?

Discolored, thickened, and brittle toenails that have separated from the nail bed typically indicate a fungal infection. It’s a common condition that affects millions of Americans, or an estimated one in 10 people in the United States at any given time.

Toenail fungus is also highly contagious, spreading from one surface to another with ease — or one person to another — if the conditions are right. Fortunately, there’s treatment available for nail fungus, and the earlier it’s treated, the better.

What makes toenail fungus so contagious?

About 90% of toenail fungal infections (onychomycosis) are caused by dermatophytes (a type of mold) that require keratin to grow. Keratin is a naturally occurring protein that hardens your nails, making them particularly vulnerable to onychomycosis.

The microorganisms that cause onychomycosis are invisible to the naked eye and thrive in warm, moist environments. Walking barefoot in public spaces, especially locker rooms, poolside, or public showers or saunas, increases your risk of a fungal toenail infection.

Without medical interventions, onychomycosis tends to spread from one toenail to another. Unfortunately, direct contact with an infected nail can also spread onychomycosis from one person to another, as can sharing contaminated towels, shower spaces, socks, and toenail clippers with a partner.

Preventing the spread of toenail fungus

One of the quickest ways to prevent toenail fungus spread is to schedule a visit with our team for prompt evaluation and treatment.

At Metroplex Foot and Ankle, LLP, strategies for treating fungal toenails include oral and topical antifungal medications. For extensive infection, we may recommend combining medications or, in the worst case scenario, complete removal of the affected nail.  

While you can’t always prevent fungal nails, you can take these simple steps to reduce your risk of developing them:

  • Wash your hands after touching a fungal nail (even your own)
  • Don’t share unwashed personal towels, socks, etc.
  • Treat your shoes with antifungal foot powder
  • Keep your toenails trimmed, and disinfect nail clippers after use
  • Clean the floor of your shower thoroughly after each use
  • Wear flip-flops or waterproof shoes in locker rooms and other public spaces
  • Keep your feet clean, dry, and moisturized
  • Wear shoes and socks made from breathable materials 
  • Remove wet or sweaty socks as soon as possible 
  • Wear socks at night to avoid spreading the fungus in a shared bed

Not everyone exposed to toenail fungus develops an active infection. However, older age, nail injuries, diabetes, and other conditions that compromise the immune system can make a fungal infection more likely. 

 If you have questions about toenail fungus, we can help. Call or click online to schedule an evaluation at Metroplex Foot and Ankle, LLP, today.