What exactly is a fungus?Here is a complete and scientific definition of what a fungus actually is: “Any of numerous eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Fungi, which lack chlorophyll and vascular tissue and range in form from a single cell to a body mass of branched filamentous hyphae that often produce specialized fruiting bodies.” The so-called ‘fungus kingdom’ includes yeasts, molds, smuts, and mushrooms. Fungi are not plants – and there are at least 80,000 different species of them. Right, so that’s the definition. But you clicked on this article because you wanted to know more about toenail and feet fungus (the correct plural term being fungi, of course). So let’s proceed accordingly, commencing with the basics since there is a lot of confusion about fungal infections…
Where does fungus exist?A fungus is a primitive organism. Therefore, it’s very adaptable. Fungus can exist in air, in soil, on plants and in water. It can basically thrive just about anywhere.
How does fungus spread in the body?A fungus enters through tiny cracks in your skin. This creates a fungal infection (or mycosis). It can also spread through touch, including touching someone who has a fungus. The good news is that fungi are not that contagious.
Can fungus spread in my home?Yes, it can. For example, foot fungus can linger for quite a long time on sheets, towels, or common household objects. Unfortunately, visitors can often spread a fungus in a home!
Anywhere else I can catch fungus?Oh, yes! You can also catch a fungal infection from animals, clothing, fabrics, and even the soil.
Why does fungus like the human body so much?Fungal infections love you and I so much because they love to feast on keratin, which is a strong, fibrous protein that is the main component of your skin. Nails and hair also have keratin, which is why fungus also thrives there.
Why does fungus thrive in feet and toes?A fungus thrives on the human body, especially between toes and on feet, because they are often warm and moist places – and that is what fungus love.
What are other factors that may cause foot and toe fungus?According to the legendary Mayo Clinic, these are some of the leading factors that may cause foot and toe fungus:
- Age: If you are an older person you may have reduced blood flow, possibly more years of exposure to fungi and slower-growing nails, for example. All of these aid in fungal growth.
- Sweat: The more you sweat in your feet, the more likely fungus will appear. Few things love sweat more than fungus!
- History: Had a fungus infection before, such as athlete's foot? Then you are more likely to get a fungal growth again.
- Barefoot: You are much more likely to get a fungal infection when walking without shoes or simple shower slippers in damp, communal areas, such as swimming pools, gyms, shower rooms, saunas, hot tubs, and steam rooms.
- Issues: If you have a minor skin or nail injury, or a skin condition such as psoriasis, then a fungal infection could occur.
- Health: Condition such as diabetes, circulation problems or a generally weakened immune system can create fungal growth issues.
What specifically is a foot fungus?Think of it as a skin infection caused by mold-like germs living in dead cells on the skin, hair, or nails on your feet. There are more than 80 types of fungal growths that can grow on your feet. Luckily, most of them are totally harmless.
What are the usual symptoms of foot or toe fungus?Typical symptoms that a fungus can cause include itching, burning, stinging, peeling, cracking, and blistering. A fungus on the skin of the foot or on the toes will be easily visible to the naked eye. Foot or toe fungus can also look gross – and sometimes even smell quite rank. Next we turn to the different types of foot and toe fungus that can occur…
Different types of of feet and toe fungus
Athlete’s Foot (Tinea pedis):Also known as ‘ringworm of the feet,’ this is the most common type of foot fungus. As much as 25% of people will get this itchy, even painful infection at some point in their lives. It can cause fissures (cracks) to form in between toes. It can also cause blisters and other kinds of skin lesions on the heels, soles or along the sides of the feet. Athlete’s foot usually causes peeling and cracking skin, as well as burning and itching. As the name implies, athlete’s foot usually occurs in people who use athletic shoes (all that great warmth and moisture from sweat that the fungus loves so much) or who walk around in high-density, moist areas such as locker rooms, saunas, and swimming pools. Athlete’s foot can spread to the toenails. Worse, if you scratch your foot that has the fungus and then touch other parts of your body, such as your armpits or groin, it can spread there too!
Nail fungus (Onychomycosis):This fungus tends to be more common in older people due to lower blood circulation and older nails that have become brittle and dry. It can also be the result of an athlete’s foot infection. Usual signs that there is a nail fungus infection could include nails that have thickened and have a whitish to yellow-brown discoloration. The nails will also appear brittle, ‘crumbling’ or ragged, even distorted in shape. The nails may even smell slightly bad. Even worse is that the nail may become detached from the nail bed. And, yes, that can be as painful as it sounds! Never leave a nail fungal infection untreated. A severe infection can get painful and may even cause permanent damage to your nails. Serious infections that spread beyond your feet can also occur, particularly if you have diabetes or another immune-suppressed condition. The really bad news is that nail fungus are notoriously difficult to treat. Most topical creams cannot penetrate the skin tissue and oral antifungal treatments can take 6 to 12 months before nails grow back.
Let’s Talk Home Remedies for Foot Fungus!Antifungal creams and other over-the counter lotions will almost always be necessary to treat athlete’s foot, of course. I am not advocating otherwise. However, it’s always good to know about some home remedies that can also be beneficial in trying to improve the bothersome and often very uncomfortable symptoms of athlete’s foot. Like any home remedy, these are homeopathic and therefore are not substitutes for lotions that you may need to use. Nevertheless, there are some terrific home remedies I can recommend to you which may just improve your symptoms and give you some much-needed respite from the symptoms. These home remedies include:
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Sea Salt and Baking Soda