NILES, Ill. -- More than half of all Americans are symptomatic of highly contagious, unsightly and often difficult to cure nail fungus and infections, and may potentially pass them along to others by sharing nail tools, according to a new survey on nail hygiene habits.
According to the Fungicure 2004 Nail Hygiene Survey of 830 Americans fielded by TNS/NFO Research Worldwide, more than 52 percent of respondents reported symptoms of highly contagious nail infections or fungus on fingernails, toenails or both. Yet only 15 percent ever discussed nail care with their physician, and more than 77 percent of respondents believe that nail fungus is somewhat, not very, or not at all contagious.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, onychomycosis, a highly contagious nail infection, affects 3 percent to 5 percent of the population, or 12 million Americans. Many more may be unaware that they have the condition because it is typically not painful at the onset.
The study queried respondents on nail hygiene, the prevalence of nail and fungal problems, and attitudes about the prevention and treatment of nail fungus. The study revealed that Americans:
-- are casually sharing nail care tools, potentially promoting the spread
of contagious nail infections,
-- lack physician involvement,
-- are poorly educated about prevention practices.
"It's not surprising that the incidence of nail infection and fungus is so high," said Andrew Scheman, MD, a dermatologist and specialist in nail fungus and infection. "Many people haven't been educated about the symptoms and don't believe they are contagious. Many people don't realize that these infections can be managed, but not easily cured, so prevention is a key."
According to the survey, nearly half (49 percent) of all respondents share fingernail and toenail tools with others, including spouses, children, roommates, co-workers and even pets. Highlights include:
-- Of those who share, 88 percent of sharers do so with their spouses and
45 percent share with their children, 5 percent share with a sibling
or parent. Two percent of respondents share with a roommate or
-- One man reported sharing tools with a pet.
-- Those who actually report nail problems share with others slightly
more than those who are not symptomatic.
-- Half of those reporting nail problems are sharing files, scissors,
clippers and other tools, potentially spreading fungus and infections.
-- Whether symptomatic or not, women were more likely to share tools than
men (51.8 percent vs. 47.7 percent)
Even a strict stance of not sharing tools with others isn't enough to keep nail fungus and infection from spreading. Sixteen percent of respondents say they use others' manicure and pedicure tools, without their knowledge, to groom their fingernails and 8 percent say they use others' tools to groom finger and toenails.
Men are twice as likely to use someone else's nail clippers without their knowledge.
"There is no doubt that nail fungus and infection can be spread through the use of dirty grooming tools," Scheman said. "If we expect salons and spas to keep manicure and pedicure tools clean, we should consider it a priority to properly clean our own personal tools, before use and after use, at home."
In terms of prevention, half of respondents cited better hygiene/cleanliness as the best means to combat nail fungus or infection. More than 32 percent of respondents reported never cleaning their nail grooming tools, saying they never thought about it. Twenty-two percent said their tools aren't dirty, and 18 percent said they don't share with anyone
with an infection.
The Fungicure 2004 Nail Hygiene Survey was fielded by NFO Research Worldwide in late 2003. The firm surveyed 830 Americans, asking about nail care grooming habits, incidence of nail infection, attitudes toward the spread of nail infections and more.