Introduction to the topic
Nobody wants discolored nails, regardless of whether you regularly get a pedicure or prefer a more natural look. However, discoloration of the nails can cause unsightly effects, such as white stripes, a yellow tint, green, blue, and even black.
In the same way that there are various explanations for the various hues, there are also various colors. We consulted a podiatrist to find out what causes discolored nails and what can be done about it.
Toenails should typically be a transparent shade of white. However, there are times when they appear in other colors, such as yellow, green, blue, purple, or even black.
Discoloration of the toenails can be caused by a number of factors (also known as chromonychia). As you can see, they span the spectrum from relatively harmless to potentially life-threatening.
The most common reasons for discolored toenails and how to treat them are discussed below.
What causes nail discoloration?
The reasons why your toenails have turned a strange shade are varied, and some are easier to treat than others. Toenail discoloration treatment begins with determining the root cause. The most common reasons for discolored nails are:
1. Nail fungus infection
Causes of toenail fungus include not washing your feet enough and living in a damp environment. Nails discolored by a fungal infection can be any of several different shades.
Over-the-counter antifungal creams may be effective in treating nail discoloration caused by a fungal infection.
However, bruising: black or purple nails are typically signs of what is called a subungual hematoma, or “a bruise of the nail bed that occurs when the nail is injured and small blood vessels bleed underneath the nail staining it darker,” as described by Cunha. Trauma to the area, such as from stubbing your toe or dropping an object on your foot, is usually to blame. One treatment option for a subungual hematoma is to do nothing until it heals on its own. When a damaged nail is gradually replaced by a healthy one, the damaged one eventually falls off.
Toenails aren’t the fastest-growers, either; they only add a millimeter or two every month. A new, healthy nail can grow in to replace the damaged one, but this process can take a few months. However, there are times when the pain is intolerable, and months of waiting seem unrealistic. Having a professional take the nail out is thus an alternative.
White spots and grooved lines can also be caused by trauma, such as from using an improperly sized sneaker for exercise.
2. Conditions that can affect nail coloration
Toenail discoloration may indicate the presence of a medical condition, such as diabetes, poor circulation, or heart or lung disease. If you have a medical condition that could be affecting your nail color, you should discuss it with your doctor.
Psoriatic nails, a type of nail discoloration, can be caused by a skin condition called psoriasis, which can be inherited. Nails may appear infected with fungus and become thick, brittle, and discolored, as described by Cunha. The susceptibility to nail fungus can also be inherited and cause a cycle.
Everyone gets white spots on their nails at some point in their lives; this condition is called leukonychia. Leukonychia is a common condition that is completely harmless. Nail trauma, fungus, and mineral deficiencies are all potential triggers.
3. Age and nail discoloration go hand in hand
The nails on your fingers and toes can turn a pale yellow as a natural consequence of aging. Discoloration of the nails is a natural consequence of aging.
What to do for discolored nails?
Toenail fungus can be remedied with either a topical antifungal cream or an oral antifungal pill. To prevent injury or infection to your feet, which could lead to toenail discoloration, always wear shoes.
The following are some measures you can take to protect your toenails from becoming discolored:
1. It’s important to wear footwear that support your feet properly
Taking good care of your feet can protect them from a variety of health problems and cosmetic issues. Cunha recommends always wearing clean socks and never going barefoot in public places. If you’re an active person, you should avoid wearing the same pair of socks repeatedly and changing them frequently. You should avoid providing a favorable environment for the growth of bacteria, which favors dark, damp places.
Socks that wick away moisture should be worn in addition to avoiding wool and polyester, which absorb and hold onto moisture.
To prevent repetitive micro-trauma, comfortable footwear is also essential. Nail trauma and infection can cause discoloration, so it’s important to keep up with regular trimming, cleaning, and filing.
2. Proceed with laser therapy
Laser treatment for nails is a pain-free way to deal with certain discolorations, and it’s not just for hair removal and anti-aging. Cunha says that laser treatment “creates micro-pores on the nail bed” that allow the anti-fungal topical to penetrate the nail plate more efficiently and effectively, attacking the source of the nail plate more directly.
3. Nail fungus treatment
Antifungal medications available on Amazon’s pharmacy shelf are effective against mild fungal infections. Look for a product that contains clotrimazole or terbinafine. These ten remedies are also good options to try at home.
Consult a doctor if your nail becomes thick and crumbly due to a fungal infection, or if the infection is particularly painful. Damage to the nails can be permanent if several different types of fungal infection are not treated.
If you have diabetes and a toenail fungal infection, you should also see a doctor.
4. Your feet need a break
In most cases, a subungual hematoma will heal on its own within a few days. While waiting for treatment, it is recommended that the affected foot be given some rest. To alleviate pain from a hangnail, try placing an ice pack on a towel and placing it on the nail.
The injury itself will heal relatively quickly, but the discolored nail will take six to nine months to completely grow out.
If the discomfort and pressure persist after a few days, it’s time to see a doctor. It’s possible that your injury is more serious and needs medical attention.
5. Find out as much as possible about the nail salon you plan to visit
Professional pedicure services should only be visited if the client can rest assured that all equipment, supplies, and tubs are thoroughly cleaned and sterilized between each client. A fungal or bacterial infection is a high price to pay for some much-needed R&R if proper precautions are not taken. If you are worried about the tools, you may want to consider bringing your own pedicure kit.
6. Home remedy
Your kitchen may already contain the ingredients you need to brighten your nails. According to Cunha, “Apple cider vinegar contains both acetic acid and alpha hydroxy acid,” both of which “have anti-fungal, antiseptic, and antimicrobial properties to help fight fungal nails,” which “are more likely improve the white appearance of the nail.” Mix one part apple cider vinegar with two parts warm water and soak your feet in it to help treat the infection.
However, if the discoloration of the nails is not permanent due to trauma or underlying pathological conditions, then other topical products, such as baking soda and toothpaste, may help cosmetically improve the whiteness of the nails. The condition of your feet determines the appearance of your nails, he says.
7. In cases of yellow nail syndrome
In extremely rare cases, a condition called yellow nail syndrome can manifest itself in the form of discolored fingernails.
Yellow nail syndrome can also cause changes to the nails, including but not limited to the following.
- Appear round or plump
- Grow more slowly than usual scar easily or ridge up
- Have no black or green cuticle
Adults over the age of 50 are disproportionately affected by yellow nail syndrome, the cause of which is unknown. It is frequently co-occurring with other medical issues, such as:
- Disease of the lungs
- Effusions of the pleura
- Arthritis, bronchitis, and sinus issues, and rheumatoid arthritis
- Conditions caused by the immune system attacking itself
In most cases, yellow nail syndrome clears up on its own without any treatment at all.
8. Consider taking dietary supplements
Yellowing nails may be an indication of a vitamin deficiency. Collagen and other dietary supplements can improve nail health and appearance. Before beginning a new vitamin or supplement regimen, it is recommended that you see your doctor first.
What exactly does toenail whitener do?
Fungal infections and dark nail polish are just two of the many potential causes of discolored toenails. Discolored toenails can be lightened with the help of a commercial toenail whitener. Toenails can be whitened naturally with ingredients like hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice, baking soda, and even whitening toothpaste. It is recommended to use a base coat before applying dark nail polish and to wash feet frequently to avoid discolored toenails.
Many people have trouble with discolored toenails. Yellow is the most common color for these toenails, but brown or green are also possible. Toenail discoloration often results from a fungal infection. Also, dark nail polishes can leave unsightly stains on the nails.
Toenail whiteners can be used to lighten yellow nails. Normal nail discoloration may be lightened with the product’s mild bleaching agents. The nails may need to be rubbed with a whitener or the product may be applied like nail polish. Results may not be visible for several days or weeks after the substance has dried.
Even though natural toenail whiteners might not be as efficient as store-bought alternatives, they are typically more budget-friendly and gentler on the nails. Hydrogen peroxide, for instance, is commonly used as a whitener because it is safe and effective. Hydrogen peroxide is applied topically and allowed to dry before being rubbed into the toenails.
Lemon juice may also be useful as a toenail whitener for some people. Lemon juice, like hydrogen peroxide, is rubbed onto the nails and left to dry. Nail whitening with hydrogen peroxide or lemon juice and baking soda is another option. Manicure routines often include rubbing this paste into the nails and then rinsing.
Toothpaste with whitening agents can be used as a low-cost alternative. To whiten your toenails with toothpaste, simply squeeze a small amount onto a clean toothbrush or nail brush. After that, you can use the brush to clean under your toenails. However, you should never brush your teeth with a toothbrush that has been used to scrub your fingernails or toenails.
Individuals can take measures to prevent toenail discoloration and, thus, the need for a toenail whitener. For instance, regular foot washing is an easy way to protect against foot and toenail fungus. It is also recommended to use a base coat on the toenails prior to applying a dark nail polish in order to avoid yellowing.
When Should You See a Doctor If Your Nails Have Changed Color?
Most cases of discolored toenails respond well to home remedies or over-the-counter drugs. However, if your toenails are discolored and you suspect a more serious fungal infection, you should consult a dermatologist. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any bleeding, severe pain, or unusual swelling.
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Nail discoloration: can it be treated at home?
When your nails look unhealthy, what does that tell you?
Can toenail fungus be treated with bleach?
When should you see a doctor about your black toenails?
What factors lead to discolored toenails?
Any change in the color of your toenails, especially if they are yellow, could indicate an underlying health problem. To be safe, it’s best to keep a close eye on your nails, even if you think the yellowing is just the result of nail polish or the natural aging process.
Typically, a treatable fungal infection is the root of yellow toenails. You should see a doctor if you notice that your nails are turning yellow, especially if you also have other symptoms such as a change in the nail’s shape or thickness, or if you experience any bleeding, discharge, pain, or swelling.