Toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, is a persistent fungal infection of the nails, and can be an unsightly problem. While the most common symptom is the yellowish discoloration of the nail, the fungus responsible for the discoloration and damage to the nail can also cause inflammation and irritation to the skin underneath, sometimes causing an unpleasant smell. While this often occurs in the toenails because they are more frequently placed in situations where fungus grows more readily—that is, damp, dark places—onychomycosis can also occur on the fingernails, leading to far more pervasive embarrassment and discomfort. But is toenail fungus hereditary, and is there anything you can do to avoid it if it is?
Technically, the condition itself is not hereditary. Fungus is an organism, and like all organisms it requires certain conditions to thrive. Genes alone cannot spontaneously cause an infection. However, a susceptibility to the type of fungus that causes toenail fungus is hereditary, and for those unfortunate individuals who do possess these genes, their body’s immune systems are less able to fight off the infection that leads to onychomycosis. Studies have shown that those with directly-descended family members who suffer from toenail fungus are more likely to have the condition as well, demonstrating its heritability. According to an article summarizing studies from PLOS Pathogens, spouses were much less likely to suffer from the condition than the children of someone with the infection, lending credence to the hypothesis that susceptibility is heritable.
While there are dozens of different ointments, creams, and home remedy treatments that purport to solve the problem of toenail fungus, these treatments are largely ineffective. The reason is simple: while a topical cream may kill the fungus that lives on the surface of the nail, the anti-fungal agents cannot penetrate into the nail bed and attack the fungus at its source, leaving large portions of the colony alive and able to bounce back from the treatment. However, there are many exciting new treatment options that experts like the American Foot and Leg Specialists can provide. Treating the infection at the source is the best way to minimize its effects, hide the unsightly discoloration, and even cure the infection.
Those that do have a genetic predisposition to weakness to these types of infections can take steps to avoid exposure, the best of which are to avoid humid, damp environments that can promote the growth of the fungus. Cleaning living areas thoroughly and ensuring that the foot remains dry and clean are both good ways to minimize the risk of infection.
American Foot and Leg Specialists are experts located in four easily-accessible locations throughout the Atlanta metro area, in Fayetteville, Forest Park, Locust Grove, and Stockbridge. With expertise in treating toenail fungus as well as a variety of other disorders and diseases that affect feet and legs, American Foot and Leg Specialists can provide a wide range of treatment options for toenail fungus. If you suffer from this condition, do not hesitate to contact us today.