Yellow toenails are caused by different diseases and conditions, but your personal habits can also contribute to yellow toenails. For instance, painting the nails of your toes yellow, orange or red may stain the nails when you remove the nail polish. Smoking can also cause the toenails to become yellow.
However, most of the time, having yellow toenails is an indication that you have a serious problem like diabetes, fungal infection (most common of all causes), lymphedema (chronic swelling of leg) or yellow nail syndrome.
Yellow toenails do not necessarily have a uniformed color. There are times when only a toenail has been affected, and in others it may be a few or all toenails. The fungus can also grow in a specific part of the toe nail producing a toenail streak with a yellow color. If the infection goes untreated and it had infected part of a toe nail, it will spread to the rest of the nail and eventually spread to the root of the nail.
Causes of Yellow Toenails
1. Fungal Infection
Proliferation of yeast or ringworm fungus causes toenail infection. In order for yeast and fungus to grow in the body, the area must be moist and warm. Therefore, if your feet get exposed to pool decks, locker rooms or bathrooms, your toes are bound to get infected. Tight fitting shoes, wearing damp socks, poor nail hygiene and nail bed injuries can also contribute to fungal infection. In this condition, nails thicken and become yellow. The nail will look brittle and chipped. Besides the shape change in toenail, it will also lose its shine. Moreover, Some nails will become loose and fall off
Treatment. Nail infection treatment is not easy, and there are times when infections re-appear even after treatment. Non-prescription ointments and medications will not help in getting rid of your toenail infection. 50% of people who suffer from nail infection successfully treat it using prescribed oral anti-fungal medications. However, such treatments come with different side effects, and if there is conflict with any other medications you are taking, you might harm your liver. There are other cases where removal of the infected nail is necessary and growing another nail may time about a year or so.
2. Yellow Nail Syndrome
This condition is quite rare and occurs if you have problems with your lymphatic system. It creates separation from your nail bed and makes the nail color turn to golden-yellow.
Treatment. Using topical vitamin E (in dimethyl sulfoxide) or oral vitamin E will help turn the nail back to its original color. If using topical vitamin E does not help, you can use oral zinc supplements.
3. Nail Polish
Using nail polish for a prolonged duration tends to stain the nails. More so, dark colors stain your nails yellow.
Treatment. It is advisable that you apply a base coat before applying any nail polish. The nails should also be left free without any nail polish for some days for them to breath.
Remedies for Yellow Toenails
For yellow toenail streak and toenails, natural remedies have a better chance of working compared to non-prescription anti-fungi. Reasons being that topical lotions and ointments are unable to get through your nail thus kill all the fungus. Home remedies and natural ointments not only soften your nails, but they also have natural ingredients that have been known to kill fungus effectively. Some of the home remedies also have back-up of various scientific studies done.
While these home remedies used to treat yellow toenails are without doubt more convenient and less expensive than going to see a doctor, the solutions may not be enough. In a situation where your nail discoloration becomes darker or odor and pain are apparent, it is advisable to seek medical attention.
1. Undiluted Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a natural fungicide and antiseptic which will help you fight fungus. Apply the undiluted oil with some olive oil to the toe nail that has been affected. You can alternatively put some tea tree oil drops on your toe nails each day then thoroughly rub it.
2. Lavender Oil with Tea Tree Oil
Take a cotton swab or ball and put some lavender and tea tree oil (equal amounts) on it. Dub the soaked cotton at the toe nail's top edge and the surrounding area. Do this twice or thrice a day. Lavender helps in the fungal infection fight and also prevents irritation of the skin.
3. Olive Oil with Oregano Oil
Blend Oregano oil (2 drops) with some olive oil (1 tsp) and apply the mixture to the area that has been affected. Repeat this each day for three weeks or less. Oregano oil contains antibacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, anti-parasitical, antifungal and analgesic properties.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar Soak
Take some warm water and apple cider vinegar and mix them in proportions that are equal. Soak your feet/toenails in the mixture for about twenty minutes then dry them thoroughly. You can use a warm setting and dryer to absorb all moisture around and in the toes.
5. Listerine Mouthwash
Soak the infected toes in Listerine mouthwash to give your toenails a healthy look.
6. AHA Creams
Alpha Hydroxy Acid creams should be lathered to flash all scaly, rough skin from the feet that have been infected by fungus or those that are prone to this infection.
7. Zinc Supplements
Zinc supplements taken over a couple of years will treat yellow toenails. Taken orally, these supplements will also prevent further infection and help your night vision.
8. Vitamin E
Using vitamin E to treat yellow nails has been known to yield positive results. Using vitamin E for about ten months will clear the nails giving them their natural color back. It also promotes the general health of your nails.
9. Medical Treatments
Chances are, the doctor will prescribe either a topical cream or oral supplement. The doctor may alternatively prescribe ointment or cream stronger than the available ones.
Note that oral treatments, such as Lamisi or Sporanox, have been proved to cause severe side effects such as liver test abnormalities and congestive heart failure.
Preventions for Yellow Toenails
- Buy shoes made of material that is breathable.
- Always wear socks that are clean and dry.
- Avoid contact with people with fungal infections.
- Do not walk barefoot on damp and public areas.
- Avoid sharing bathmats, clothes and towels when you or someone else is healing or having a fungal infection.
- Clean the dry your toes and feet thoroughly each day.
- Consult a doctor before using any treatment method.
- Maintain toe nail and foot hygiene.
- Do not have very short nails and when cutting, have them cut straight across.
- Completely follow the doctor's instructions when treating fungal infection.
- Carefully choose the products you use for nail care.