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Help! I Think I Have a Toenail Fungus Infection!

Updated on July 20, 2009

Greenish, yellow, brown or otherwise discolored toenail? Check. Dry, brittle, thick toenail? Check. Embarrassed at the thought of going out in public without shoes covering toenail? Check. Yep. Sounds like you just might have a toenail fungus infection, along with my sympathy. As much as you appreciate my sympathy, I'm sure you'd rather have some answers about what you can do to treat and prevent a toenail infection so let's not waste much time.

One quick note, I've been hubbing, blogging and working like crazy all through the weekend so I'm a bit spent. I'll try to keep this short and to the point.

The shoes did it! Bad shoe! No cookie!
The shoes did it! Bad shoe! No cookie!

How Did I Get a Toenail Fungus Infection?

First, what is a toenail fungus infection? Well, it's what the name implies but, rather than a fungal infection of the actual nail, it' is an infection of the nail bed under the nail. And that one fact is what makes it so hard to treat because it can be difficult for topical solutions to penetrate down to where the infection lives.

So how did you get your toenail fungus? Any number of ways and that's what we'll focus on in this hub. Like I said, I'm a bit hubbed out, but let's get the basics down and I promise I'll write more later and link to it. So let's use my own toenail fungus infection as an example. I got mine from rock climbing.

Ok, that's a bit vague so let me elaborate. Toenail fungus takes best when it can exploit a chink in your body's natural armor. That weakness can be physical or immune. In my case, I was climbing with my friends one sunny weekend. As it was my partner's turn to climb and my turn to belay, I took off my shoes (which are painfully tight for some really tough routes) and settled in to belay. At one point, I shifted position and ended up smashing my toe into a rock sticking up from the ground. As the day wore on, I tried climbing again but the pain in the toe was excruciating. I even tried my friend's shoes which were less "extreme" in design and therefore less demanding on my feet, but eventually had to give up due to the pain. By the end of the day, my toe and a good portion of my foot near the toe were black and blue and I could barely walk. I'd broken the darned thing.

Now the broken toe wasn't so much the culprit here as the damaged toenail (well and truly split) coupled with swapping shoes, coupled with the fact that most climbers (me included) don't wear socks as it interferes with the feel of the rock through the shoe. Unbeknownst to either of us, my climbing partner was in the very early stages of his own toenail fungus infection. So, in a perfect collision of events (and toes with rocks), I managed to do everything right if I wanted a toenail fungus infection (even though I didn't want one).

So the lesson here is that the fungal infection that has infested your toe could very well have been transferred to it by somebody else. And you don't have to smash your foot into a rock to get it, either. Sharing shoes, going barefoot in a public shower, sharing socks and, if you're particularly vulnerable, even sharing a towel with an infected spouse could result in transfer.

Now I'm going to see what the world outside my computer monitors looks like for a little while, but when I come back I'll move on to another toe fungus infection hub to dispel some oft-repeated myths and hopefully shine a ray of hope your way.

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