Healthy nails have a pinkish hue and shiny appearance. If you have yellow spots, or markings on your toenails or fingernails, this can be an indicator of nail fungus, an infection called Onychomycosis. In most cases, the yellowish discoloration starts at the tip of the nail (the distal edge, see image below) and spreads towards the cuticle, often along one side of the nail.
Onychomycosis is a common nail disorder caused by fungal organisms (the most common being keratin loving dermatophytes), yeasts and molds. Many nail fungus infections are caused by the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot and cross infections between the two disorders can easily occur. Nail fungus infections are more common in toenails than fingernails and tend to affect older people more than younger.
Why are my nails yellow?
Having yellow nails is the most obvious sign of nail fungus, but there are others. Other symptoms to look out for include:
- Thickening of the nail.
- Build-up of debris under the nail.
- Changes in texture, loss of shine and clarity.
- Brittleness and crumbling at the edges of the nail.
- Small separations of the nail plate from the nail bed.
In addition to nail fungus infection a yellow nail can occur if you wear very dark nail polish for an extended period of time without using a protective base-coat. The constant use of nail polish can deprive nails of the oxygen they need to maintain a natural color and good health. This can be compounded by a yellow stain from the polish. Leave your nails unpolished for a while and they will quickly revert to your normal nail color.
Yellow fingernails are also a common side effect from smoking (not so with yellow toenails of course!). The tar and nicotine in cigarettes stains the fingernails and skin around the fingers when holding a cigarette. Smoking can also cause a more generalized oxygen deprivation that results in nails taking on a yellow-hue.
Yellow nails also result from a specific condition known as Yellow Nail Syndrome, a rare disease often associated with lymphatic disorders, lung disease and compromised respiration. Please remember to consult your doctor for all cases nail abnormality as it is important to get an accurate diagnosis before seeking treatment.
If the cause of your yellow nails is a nail fungus infection, the good news is that the condition is treatable. We encourage you to read our reviews of nail fungus treatments (click on the sidebar on the left) so that you are informed of what is available. Some, like Funginix and Zetaclear contain powerful antifungal agents, while others focus more on prevention and overall nail health.
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