Good experience Health Lifestyle

Toenail Fungus and Smoking: How Smoking Affects Nail Health and Treatment

Written by Jimmy Rustling

Toenail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While there are many factors that can contribute to the development of toenail fungus, one often overlooked factor is smoking. In this comprehensive article, we will explore the link between smoking and toenail fungus, how smoking affects nail health, and how it impacts the effectiveness of treatments for toenail fungus.

The Connection Between Smoking and Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus is caused by various types of fungi, with the most common being dermatophytes, which thrive in warm, moist environments. The fungi invade the nail, causing it to become discolored, thickened, and brittle. While anyone can develop toenail fungus, certain factors increase the risk, including age, compromised immune system, and poor circulation.

Smoking has a significant impact on overall health, including toenail and nail health. Nicotine, a primary component of tobacco, is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it narrows blood vessels and reduces blood flow. This diminished blood flow can lead to poor circulation in the extremities, such as the toes, which in turn creates an ideal environment for fungi to thrive.

Additionally, smoking weakens the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight off infections, including fungal infections. This means that not only are smokers more susceptible to developing toenail fungus, but they may also experience more severe cases and longer recovery times.

Effects of Smoking on Nail Health

Apart from increasing the risk of toenail fungus, smoking can have several other detrimental effects on nail health. These include:

  1. Discoloration: The nicotine in cigarettes can stain the nails, leading to yellow or brown discoloration. This can be particularly noticeable in individuals who have been smoking for a long time.
  2. Slow growth: Reduced blood flow caused by smoking can slow down nail growth, as nails require a steady supply of nutrients and oxygen for proper growth. This can result in brittle, thin, or easily broken nails.
  3. Increased risk of infections: As mentioned earlier, smoking weakens the immune system, making it more challenging for the body to fight off infections. This means that smokers are more likely to develop bacterial or fungal infections in and around the nails.

Impact of Smoking on Toenail Fungus Treatments

Smoking not only increases the risk of developing toenail fungus, but it can also hinder the effectiveness of treatments. Some ways in which smoking affects the treatment of toenail fungus include:

  1. Decreased effectiveness of medications: Studies have shown that smoking can reduce the effectiveness of certain medications used to treat toenail fungus, such as oral antifungal drugs. This is likely due to the reduced blood flow in the extremities, which can limit the amount of medication that reaches the affected area.
  2. Slower healing: As smoking impairs the immune system, it can take longer for the body to heal from infections, including toenail fungus. This means that treatment may need to be continued for a longer period, and the risk of recurrence may be higher.
  3. Reduced success of laser treatments: Some studies have suggested that smoking may reduce the success rate of laser treatments for toenail fungus. This is because the reduced blood flow caused by smoking can limit the amount of oxygen and nutrients needed for healthy nail growth, making it more difficult for the nail to recover from the infection.

Tips for Smokers with Toenail Fungus

If you’re a smoker dealing with toenail fungus, there are several steps you can take to improve your nail health and increase the effectiveness of treatments:

  1. Quit smoking: The most effective way to minimize the impact of smoking on toenail fungus and overall health is to quit smoking. There are various smoking cessation programs and nicotine replacement therapies available to help you kick the habit. By quitting smoking, you’ll improve your immune system, circulation, and overall nail health, which will make it easier for your body to fight off infections and recover from toenail fungus.
  2. Maintain proper foot hygiene: Keeping your feet clean and dry is crucial in preventing and treating toenail fungus. Wash your feet daily with soap and water, and make sure to dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes. Change socks regularly and wear moisture-wicking socks to keep your feet dry.
  3. Choose breathable footwear: Opt for shoes made from breathable materials, such as canvas or leather, to prevent moisture buildup. Avoid wearing tight or ill-fitting shoes that can cause friction and damage to the nails.
  4. Trim nails regularly: Keep your toenails trimmed straight across and avoid cutting them too short, as this can make them more susceptible to infection. Make sure to clean and disinfect your nail clippers after each use.
  5. Avoid walking barefoot in public places: Public areas, such as swimming pools, gyms, and locker rooms, are breeding grounds for fungi that can cause toenail infections. Always wear flip-flops or shower shoes to protect your feet from exposure to these fungi.
  6. Boost your immune system: Eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can help strengthen your immune system, making it more effective in fighting off infections. Additionally, regular exercise and adequate sleep can contribute to a stronger immune system.
  7. Consult a healthcare professional: If you suspect that you have toenail fungus, consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Early intervention can help prevent the infection from worsening and spreading to other nails. For more information on the early stage of toenail fungus, click here.


Toenail fungus and smoking are closely linked, with smoking increasing the risk of developing the condition and negatively affecting nail health and treatment outcomes. By quitting smoking and following proper foot care practices, you can significantly improve your chances of successfully treating toenail fungus and maintaining healthy nails. Consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice and an appropriate treatment plan to ensure the best possible outcome.

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About the author

Jimmy Rustling

Born at an early age, Jimmy Rustling has found solace and comfort knowing that his humble actions have made this multiverse a better place for every man, woman and child ever known to exist. Dr. Jimmy Rustling has won many awards for excellence in writing including fourteen Peabody awards and a handful of Pulitzer Prizes. When Jimmies are not being Rustled the kind Dr. enjoys being an amazing husband to his beautiful, soulmate; Anastasia, a Russian mail order bride of almost 2 months. Dr. Rustling also spends 12-15 hours each day teaching their adopted 8-year-old Syrian refugee daughter how to read and write.