5 Fascinating Myths About Toenail Fungus

toenail fungus

As you’re getting ready to expose your toes this summer, you may not realize that fungus is lurking on some of the surfaces you’re walking on, waiting for the right moment to strike. Then, suddenly—bam!—you find your toenails in the throes of a fungal infection. Unfortunately, the internet is wrought will false information about toenail fungus and what to do about it, but no worries—we have you covered.

Check out five wacky myths about toenail fungus that we have happily debunked for you.

Myth #1: Nail polish keeps toenail fungus away.

Fact: We would love nothing more than to tell you that prettying up your toes—especially since sandal weather is almost here—will keep the dangers of toenail fungus at bay, but we’d be lying.

The sad reality is that not only does it not prevent the fungus, but it can actually make you more susceptible to it. Applying nail polish can seal in moisture on the surface of the nail, creating the dark, warm and moist environment fungus thrives in. Wearing nail polish on your tootsies should be kept to a minimum, and your feet overall should always be kept dry. 

Myth #2: Fungal infections are due to poor hygiene.

Fact: Though it’s true that good hygiene is very important, the fact of the matter is you could have the cleanest feet in the world and you can still be at risk of getting a fungal infection. Not only is it highly contagious, but there can also be other risk factors at play, such as damage to the nail bed or other existing conditions (e.g., diabetes). The risk of contracting it from another person is especially bad if you’re:

  • In a public place that’s full of moisture (think shared locker rooms)
  • Getting a pedicure at a salon that doesn’t use sterilized tools or a properly sanitized foot bath, especially if the water is recirculated instead of agitated (which is safer)
  • Sharing personal items with someone who has it, such as a towel or flip-flops

Myth #3: Thick, discolored nails = fungal infection

Fact: You may find this one surprising but the change in texture and color of the nail does not necessarily indicate that a fungal infection is present (despite being a main cause of ugly nail syndrome). There are a number of other things, such as different pathological microorganisms, that can cause the change. A podiatrist would not base a diagnosis solely on the sight of the nail, but instead would confirm or rule out a fungal infection by taking a sample of the nail—either scrapings or clippings—and sending it out for an analysis.

Myth #4: Toenail fungus is gross looking but harmless. It’ll just go away on its own.

Fact: This line of thinking never ceases to amaze us. The word infection should never be ignored.

A toenail fungal infection is not harmless and should be treated. Failure to do so could make the problem worse, leave you in pain or allow the infection to spread to other toes (as athlete’s foot or even ringworm). Also, if your immune system happens to be compromised for one reason or another, you leave yourself vulnerable to more serious and potentially life-threatening infections.  

Myth #5: You don’t need to see a doctor for toenail fungus.

Fact: Again, toenail fungus is an infection and should be treated as one. In theory, you would go to a doctor for any other type of infection, so why not your toenails?

The internet or friends/family may tell you that you can treat the issue yourself at home with over-the-counter medications or home remedies to spare yourself a trip. While that may be true in some cases, more severe cases require medical intervention. Only a specialist can officially confirm a fungal infection and is likely to recommend proven products, prescribe medication or suggest a procedure to address your infection.


For more information on foot fungus treatment or to schedule an appointment with our specialists, contact Essex Union Podiatry today.