How did I get nail fungus and how do I get rid of it?

     One of the first questions patients usually ask me is "how did I get this".  Well first of all you most likely did not do anything wrong.  Fungus is part of our holobiome.  This is just a really fancy word for the bacteria, fungus and virus' that live on each of us.  I have mine and you have yours.  So as far as you being contagious-how are you going to give someone something that they already have. This simple fact accounts for why fungus is so difficult to treat. 

     You can never get rid of all the fungus on your body.  No more than you can get rid of all the bacteria on your body.  It does not matter how many times a day you take a bath. So first lets get an understanding of what type of environment fungus flourishes in.  Fungus does very well where it is hot, humid and dark.  Where would this be?  How about the inside of everyones shoes?  Whats the most common type of fungus we all know about?  Most likely the mushroom.  Mushrooms of course are not grown on black top parking lots in the desert. 

     So how does fungus get from your skin into your nails?  This happens when a layer skin known as the Hyponicium is broken or breached.  The Hyponicium is that layer of skin that attatches your nails to your toes and fingers. Once it is broken the fungus which is already on us can eat its way into the nail.  Like all living organisms it takes the path of least resistance and eats its way forward depositing its waste products behind it.  This causes the delamination or thickening of the nails that we see clinically. 

     What is the key to treating fungal infections of the nails? In order to treat fungal infections successfully we need to create an environment that is as non friendly for fungus as possible.  This includes how we treat our shoes, our socks and yes our skin.  Lets say you have Tinea Pedis(another fancy word that just means athelete foot) and you don't treat that but instead focus all your attention on the nails.  Well you may get the nails clear but as soon as you stop treating the nails the fungus from the skin will get right back into the nails and whole cycle starts again.  The same is true if you treat the skin and not the nails. 

     The take home message here is that successfully treating fungal infections of the nails and skin is going to require alot of effort and yes some time.  It can be done just understand that it is a process with many steps and you must complete each step if you want to successfully treat the issue. 

     If you are having an issue with fungal infections to the nails or skin please come see us at any of our two locations.  

     Thank you for giving us the opportunity to provide your care and happy holidays.  


Dr. H. Austin Hewlett Dr. Hewlett is Board Certified in both Foot and Reconstructive Rear Foot Surgery by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. The highest certification in the field of Podiatry. He has been practicing at Cambridge Foot and Ankle Associates for 18 years and is also the longest sitting Podiatrist on the Orthopedic Executive Committee at Saint Josephs Hospital in Orange Ca. In addition Dr. Hewlett serves as the director of the Sports Medicine Fellowship at Specialty Surgical Center of Irvine. He has been surfing for over 40 years and absolutely loves raising his daughter. Dr. Hewlett is available for consultation in both the Orange and Newport Beach offices of Cambridge Foot and Ankle. He specializes in all treatment aspects of the foot and ankle ranging from skin infections to complicated reconstructive surgery of the foot and ankle.

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