When one thinks of yellow, many things come to mind. Bananas, umbrellas, even submarines. Yellow toenails should not make the list, but if they do, the following conditions could be causes for your unsightly nail discoloration.
Though it’s often used to make your fingernails and toenails look better, nail polish — especially dark colors — is one of the top causes of yellow toenails. Not only does the dye in polish build up over time and stain your nails, many polishes contain formaldehyde, a chemical that can react with the keratin in your nails and create a yellow hue. One way to prevent this from happening is to use formaldehyde-free polishes and to occasionally give your toenails and their keratin “breathers” by not wearing any polish for a few days.
A fungal infection of the nail, also called onychomycosis, is the most common type of nail ailment and makes up about half of all nail abnormalities. Fungus thrives in dark, warm, moist places — which makes toes a perfect home for the microorganisms. Common signs of toenail fungus include yellowing of the nail, as well as cracks, brittleness and separation of the nail from the nail bed. If you suspect you have a toenail fungus infection, you should see your doctor or a podiatrist as soon as possible. The infection can easily spread, and it can take months — sometimes even years — to clear up with the application of antifungal medications or laser toenail fungus removal treatment.
READ MORE: DIY Toenail Fungus Infection Home Remedies
There are many side effects associated with smoking, and one of them is yellow fingernails and toenails. Over time, the tar and nicotine found in cigarettes can stain the nails, giving them a sickly hue reminiscent of jaundice.
One of the most noticeable symptoms of diabetes is a yellowing of the nails, which happens when glucose attaches to the collagen proteins in the nail. If you are experiencing discolored nails in addition to extreme thirst, frequent urination and numbness or loss of sensation in your feet and toes, you should visit a doctor right away to rule out the possibility of diabetes.
Growing older comes with a host of bodily problems, one of which includes yellow fingernails and toenails. The condition is due to slower blood circulation and cell turnover, which can also cause brittleness in addition to the change of color in the toenails.
Yellow Nail Syndrome
A rare genetic condition, yellow nail syndrome can not only give your fingernails and toenails a yellow hue, but it can also cause each fingernail and toenail to grow slowly, lose its cuticle and detach from the nail bed. Another name for yellow nail syndrome is “primary lymphedema associated with yellow nails and pleural effusion.”
Though not directly responsible for yellow toenails, lymphedema — which is caused by a blockage in your circulatory system that leads to extreme swelling of the hands and feet — leaves your body vulnerable to infection, including fungal infections of the nails. And as explained above, many types of onychomycosis can cause nail yellowing and discoloration.
Psoriasis is a disease characterized by patches of abnormal skin. It can affect the fingernails and toenails, by causing pitting of the nails, as well as discoloration of the nails. The yellowing that appears with psoriasis, however, is typically coupled with a reddish hue.
In rare cases, yellow nails can indicate serious health conditions such as lung disease and severe thyroid imbalances. It can also signify your nail has experienced trauma, such as a heavy object having fallen and damaged the toenail. If you have yellow nails, it is always a good idea to have them examined by a health care professional so a reliable diagnosis can be made.
How to Prevent Yellow Nails
There are many ways you can prevent yellow toenails from invading the health and happiness of your feet. Make sure to keep your feet clean and dry and keep your socks and footwear clean and dry, as well. Be sure to wear a protective shoe choice like flip flops in moist public places like locker rooms, gyms and swimming areas so as to lessen your chance of developing a fungal infection. Keep your nails properly trimmed straight across, never in a curved shape. Always use a clear base coat before applying nail polish, and try to occasionally give your nails a break from polish altogether with the “au naturel” look.
As with any foot abnormality, it is important to have any nail changes examined by a health care professional. As we mentioned above, discoloration of the nail can be a sign of a serious health condition like diabetes, lymphedema or cancer. In addition, fungal infections are much easier to treat and less likely to become recurrent when caught in their early stages.
For mild cases of yellow toenail caused by nail polish, application of common household items like lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide and whitening toothpaste may be effective in removing the discoloration and returning the nails to their natural appearance.