What causes toe infections?

Written by chris sherwood
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What causes toe infections?

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A toe infection can occur at any time either on the flesh of the toe as well as on or underneath the toenail. A toe infection is usually characterised by swelling, redness, foul odour, discoloured nails, or thick and brittle nails. Without treatment a toe infection can sometimes spread to other areas of the foot, and may even progress to the point where amputation of the toe may be necessary to prevent the infection from spreading.


For a toe infection to occur, there must first be the right conditions. Cuts and scrapes are one of the most common ways in which a toe infection can take hold. Infections can also occur from cracking due to dry skin, or a rupture in the plate of the toenail. Ingrown toenails and hang nails can also create the necessary conditions for an infection to occur. Certain other conditions can increase your chances of developing an infection such as wearing shoes that are not well ventilated or walking on shower floors or pool decks without flip flops. These are all areas in which the bacteria and fungi that cause infection thrive.


The most common cause of toe infections are fungal. Fungal infections usually focus on the nail of the toe and are called onychomycosis. The fungi responsible for these infections are yeast, dermatophytes, and moulds such as nondermatophytes. Treatment for fungal infections usually include either oral or topical anti-fungal medications.


Bacterial infections are also common and typically can also be the most dangerous. In fact, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, bacterial skin infections are the 28th most common diagnosis is hospitals. In most cases these infections are causes by Streptococcus or Staphylococcus. Treatment for bacterial toe infections usually includes prescription antibiotics.

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