Being in the foot business, we have a fair number of people that come in concerned about a fungal infection - whether it be of the skin ("Athlete's foot") or of the toenails. I often get the question of "where does fungus come from?" or "where did I get it from?" People try hard to recall an incident where they were barefoot and in some cases come up with no recollection of exposure. So what gives?
The truth is, fungus is everywhere in the environment. Similar to bacteria, there are many many strains of fungus. Microorganisms like fungus and bacteria are vitally important to our everyday health. This is referred to as our natural "flora." From the bacteria in the digestive system that assist in metabolism to the bacteria that naturally lies on the skin, these organisms are not by any means "all bad." In fact, a healthy balance of fungus and bacteria makes for a well-functioning body. When a fungal infection develops, what this means is simply that the number of fungus per given area is higher than the usual and in these cases can be harmful. This is just the same as bacteria! If you have ever had a scrape that got infected, the bacteria within this wound is typically the normal bacteria on the skin, but a higher amount. Another example is when taking an antibiotic, sometimes people can have the side effect of developing a yeast infection or a secondary infection in the digestive tract. This is due the the normal flora being out of balance.
In instances where people develop an Athlete's foot or fungal toenail, this can be due to exposure to higher than normal levels of fungus, or exposure to your body's natural level of fungus while in an immunocompromised state. This means that your body is not in good balance. In addition, some people just have an environment on the feet which is more favorable to fungus, ie. sweaty feet that are in leather shoes all day.
If you are experiencing itching, scaling, burning on the skin on your feet or a funny-looking nail - call our office for an evaluation today!