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What is toenail fungus?

Toenail fungus, medically known as onychomycosis, is a widespread nail disorder that affects millions of people worldwide.It affects approximately 10% of the general population, but the risk and frequency increases with age.

A doctor scrutinizes a patient's foot.
Close-up of a man's toenail fungus.
Part 1: An Introduction To Toenail Fungus

if you have toenail fungus, you'll know it

This condition involves the infection of the nail bed and plate, primarily caused by a group of fungi known as dermatophytes, though yeasts and molds can also be culprits. The infection leads to noticeable changes in the appearance of toenails, including discoloration, thickening, and brittleness, often accompanied by detachment from the underlying nail bed.

Part 1: An Introduction To Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus complications

The condition is not just a cosmetic problem; if left untreated, toenail fungus can lead to more severe complications, including persistent pain, the spread of infection to other parts of the body, and a substantial impact on a person's quality of life. Early recognition and treatment are crucial in managing the symptoms effectively and preventing its spread, emphasizing the importance of awareness and proper foot care.

A patient at the podologist's office, the doctor is carefully doing his work.
Part 2: Definition and characteristics

occurs when fungi, yeasts, or molds invade the nail bed, nail plate, or both.

These microorganisms thrive in environments where there is little light and moisture, making the area beneath your toenails an ideal breeding ground.

Definition and Causes

Fungi, the most common culprits, feed on keratin—the tough protein that makes up your nails. This results in the nail often becoming discolored, thick, and prone to crumbling. Yeasts and molds, though less common, can also establish infections, particularly in people with weakened immune systems or chronic health issues like diabetes.

Where It Thrives

The ideal environment for toenail fungus is warm, moist, and dark. This is why infections are prevalent in areas like sweaty shoes, shower floors, and public swimming pools—places where people's feet are frequently exposed to moisture. Regular exposure to such environments, especially without proper foot protection, significantly increases the risk of developing toenail fungus.

How It Spreads

Toenail fungus is highly contagious and can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected person or indirectly through contact with contaminated surfaces. Common places of contraction include gyms, swimming pools, and nail salons—anywhere that instruments may not be sterilized properly or where feet come in contact with fungi-laden surfaces. Sharing footwear, towels, or nail clippers can also spread the infection from person to person.

Toenail fungus illustration before after photo
Part 3: Definition and characteristics

Recognizing the symptoms of toenail fungus is the first step toward getting effective treatment.

Discolored or Yellow Nails

One of the earliest signs of a fungal infection is a noticeable discoloration of the nails. They may turn various shades of yellow, brown, or even white, often starting at the tip and gradually spreading toward the base.

Brittle, Cracked, or Broken Nails

Infected nails can become unusually brittle and prone to cracking or splitting. You might notice that parts of your nails break off easily or seem ragged at the edges.

Thickened Nails

As the infection progresses, the affected nails may thicken and become harder to trim. This thickening can make your nails feel uncomfortable or painful when wearing shoes.

Nails That Are Lifted From the Nail Bed

Fungal infections can cause the nail to lift or detach from the underlying nail bed, a condition known as onycholysis. This can lead to further infection and pain, especially when pressure is applied to the nail.

Part 4: Risk Factors
Risk Factors for Developing Toenail Fungus

Understanding the factors that increase the risk of developing toenail fungus can help you take preventive measures and recognize susceptibility in yourself or others. Here are several key risk factors:


The risk of toenail fungus increases with age due to reduced blood circulation, slower nail growth, and greater exposure to fungi over time. Older adults are particularly susceptible to this condition.


Individuals with diabetes are at a higher risk for many types of infections, including toenail fungus. Diabetes can impair blood circulation and weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off infections like onychomycosis.

Poor Circulation

Conditions that affect blood flow to the limbs, such as peripheral arterial disease, can also increase the risk of developing toenail fungus. Reduced circulation impedes the body's ability to fight off infections and contributes to slower healing.

Frequent Exposure to Water

Occupations or activities that involve prolonged wetness of the feet and hands, such as swimming or jobs that involve water, can predispose individuals to fungal infections. Constant moisture can compromise the skin’s barrier, making it easier for fungi to invade.

Communal Bathing Areas

Using public showers, gyms, swimming pools, and locker rooms without protective footwear increases the risk of contracting toenail fungus. These areas are often warm and moist—ideal conditions for fungal growth and transmission.

Shared Items

Sharing footwear, towels, or nail care tools with others can also lead to the spread of toenail fungus. Fungi can linger on these items, infecting anyone who comes into contact with them.

Part 5: Complications & Health Issues

Pain & Discomfort

As the infection progresses, it can cause significant pain and discomfort in the toes and feet. Thickened and distorted nails can make it difficult to wear shoes and walk normally, impacting daily activities and overall quality of life.

Part 5: Complications & Health Issues

Spread of infection

Toenail fungus can easily spread to other nails and even to other areas of the body, such as the skin or fingernails. The infection can also spread to other people through direct contact or via shared surfaces like floors, mats, or linens.

Part 5: Complications & Health Issues

Loss of nail

In severe cases, the fungal infection can lead to the complete detachment of the nail from the nail bed. This not only results in permanent damage to the nail but can also expose the nail bed and surrounding areas to further infection and injury.

Part 5: Complications & Health Issues

Secondary infections

Open cracks or wounds in the skin around infected toenails can act as entry points for bacteria. This can lead to cellulitis, a potentially serious bacterial skin infection that requires immediate medical treatment.

Part 6: STRIDE DUO™ therapy

STRIDE's comprehensive treatment

Effectively managing and treating toenail fungus is crucial to prevent complications and improve the health and appearance of your nails.

Oral medication

The core of our combination treatment and proven to be 89% effective. For more severe or widespread infections, oral antifungal medications are often recommended. These medications, such as Terbinafine and Fluconazole, are taken orally to help eliminate the fungus from the inside out, treating the infection systemically.

STRIDE ClearNail Renewal™

This topical solution is designed for direct application to the affected nail. It includes ingredients that help combat the fungus while also improving the condition of the nail. Topical treatments are especially useful for mild to moderate infections and can be a preferred option for those who are looking for a non-invasive solution.

White tablets, dark blue STRIDE box and transparent bottle with nail fungus medicine STRIDE on gray background.

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