Yellow Toenails: Causes, Prevention, and Treatments

Written by Resurchify | Updated on: January 27, 2023

Yellow Toenails: Causes, Prevention, and Treatments

You might have seen the yellow, scrappy, uneven toenails. Have you ever wondered what might be the cause of it? If you have yellow toenails, do not worry, this article will help you understand your problem. This article provides you with things you need to know to avoid this issue.


To understand the issue of the yellow toenail, let's understand the structure of the nails. The hard part cut and the file is called the nail plate. It is hardened and dead nail cells. This nail plate is sitting on a nail bed, which are active cells that provide support to the nails. To protect the root of the nail and active cells these two layers stick together. It protects them. 

Yellow Toe Nails

You might have noticed that sometimes our toenails turn yellow. It happens a lot as we grow old. But generally, this yellow toenail indicates a fungal infection in the toe. It can also be a symptom of some health conditions. It is said to consult a doctor or a trained expert in this field to understand it. 

Causes of Yellow Toenail


As we age, our nail can lose their natural pinkish-white color and turn slightly yellow. It is also ordinary for nails to thicken a little, and their shape also changes. It is nothing to be worried about as it is a natural process.

Nail Polish

Nail polishes are sometimes harsh. If you color your nail regularly, especially bright colors such as red, orange, and yellow, you are more likely to have discoloration. It's harmless, as this can stop when you stop using nail polish.

Fungal Infection

As the name suggests, yellow toenails can be because of fungal infection. In this condition, the nail becomes yellow and thick. Sometimes white spots are also seen on such nails. In severe cases, the nails may even be in an odd shape. This infection is not painful, yet it might not be a pretty sight. It can be contagious, as fungus can spread to other nails, skin, and even another person if in direct touch. 


They are a group of fungi, that causes infections in the skin, hair, and nails. The infection in the nails is caused by the dermatophytes called tinea unguium, also known as onychomycosis. It causes 90% of fungal toenail infections. The rest are caused by non-dermatophytes.

This fungus feeds off keratine, which is the main component of the nails. This fungus infection is contagious. This fungus is most active in wet areas. One is exposed most to this fungus in public places, especially humid and wet places. This area can be public pools, public showers, etc. 

Anyone can get infected by this fungus. Those who have excessive moisture in the toes, those who have any other fungus infection in the skin, and diabetes, are at more risk of this. 

If you see any of the symptoms, immediately consult an expert. Let them identify the cause, and they will suggest a solution to the problem.

Yellow Toenail Syndrome

There are many causes of yellow nail syndrome. It is as mentioned below:

  • Lymphatic problem
  • The problem in the immunity system
  • Presence of cancerous cells in the body
  • Hereditary problems
  • Respiratory problems

It is generally caused because of problems in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is responsible to move lymph. It is an immune system liquid that carries fighting agents throughout the body. 

There are many reasons why the lymphatic system may malfunction. It will lead to a buildup of lymph in the system, leading to yellow nails. It is because the buildup can affect blood circulation. It is found that problems in the lymphatic system may affect the function of the lungs as well.  


  • Very general symptoms are yellow nails (fingernails and toenails)
  • Lymphatic disorders
  • Severe coughing
  • Swelling in the lymph in your hands and legs

One must consult a professional to assess the situation better and provide necessary treatment. This treatment includes: 

  • Medication
  • Exercise to deal with the lymph accumulation
  • Massages
  • Heavy treatment to deal with respiratory and lung problems

Nail Psoriasis

Psoriasis is when one experiences skin problems such as rashes, sensitive skin, and scratchy skin. Nail psoriasis is a psoriasis condition affecting the nails. Nail psoriasis is a condition caused due to immune system problems. In this condition, the immune system becomes hyperactive. It leads to rapid cell generation. It is a non-contagious disease.  


  • Discoloration: It is usually seen that the color of the nail changes when one suffers from nail psoriasis. Generally, It changes into yellow from its natural Pinkish-white. 
  • Pit formation: When one is going through this problem, pits are formed on the nails. These pits can be shallow or deep. Sometimes they are so small that you might not even notice them. 
  • Change in shape: as the immune system affects the cells in the nail bed, it might detach from the nail plate. It leads to a condition where your nail loose contact and loses its shape. It can be very insightful. 

It is not a particularly fatal problem. But, if left untreated, it can be troublesome in long run. If you see some symptoms, immediately contact an expert and get them diagnosed. There is no clinical treatment available for this. Experts provide you with certain medications to give you relief in chronic conditions. Experts may suggest some laser therapy, and injections to provide relief in extreme conditions. 

Onychogryphosis (Ram’s Horn Nail)

Onychogryphosis is a condition where the toenails grow at a tremendous rate. The nail grows beyond the skin and is curved like a claw. Thus, it is also called Ram's Horn Nails. It is also seen that these nails are yellow, flaky, and thick compared to other nails. The causes are as mentioned below:

Foot Trauma

It is a condition where your feet get hurt or abused. This trauma can be minor or major. Minor foot trauma includes wearing shoes that do not fit properly. Major foot trauma is a direct injury to the nail. It can lead to deformed nails and horn nails. 

Genetic Disorders

There is genetic disorder such as Ichthyosis and Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). In ichthyosis, the body is unable to shed dead skin, leading to the thickening of the nails. While in TSC, the nails deform. 

Fungal Infection

It causes the nails to become thick, and brittle. 

Blood Circulation

Lack of proper blood supply can cause unusual nail growth. This condition is known as Peripheral vascular disease, also called peripheral artery disease (PAD).  If the nail is untreated, it can cause many problems. These are ingrown nails, pain in the toes, vulnerability to infection, and limited physical activities. 

One must consult an expert to handle horn nails. They will suggest appropriate action for treatment. When the condition is not severe, they may offer to leave it as it is. They will provide you with guidance on how to cut the nails and take care of them. If the condition is severe, they might suggest surgery. This surgery could target the area or remove the nail plate if the condition is worsening.

Experts suggest following general guidelines to maintain the horn nails:

  • Keep them short to avoid problems
  • Trim them in a straight line to avoid ingrown nails
  • Wear shoes that fit your good
  • Wear clean cotton socks

Who Is More Exposed To The Risk Of Yellow Toenails?

Already Injured Foot

If you have any injury near your toe, you are more exposed to the risk of a yellow toenail. It is because the likelihood of fungus exposure is more here. This risk is higher if you have open cuts and an athlete's foot. An athlete's foot is a condition, where there is a fungal infection between the toes. It causes rashes, itching, and scratchy skin between the toes. It is a contagious fungus and thus, can affect the nails as well. This fungus infection leads to yellow toenails. 

Exposure To Wet Areas

If you are exposed to a wet area, the chances of fungal infection are high. It is because fungi are more likely to grow in wet areas. The chances of you getting fungus in your skin are high. To avoid it you must clean and dry your feet regularly. You can always wear relevant footwear when on a wet surface to reduce the chances. 


Smoking leads to the ingestion of harmful chemicals. These chemicals can make the skin sensitive, the immune system weak, and the nails thin and prone to break. It makes your nail more exposed to the fungus that leads to infection. 


If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it can make you more vulnerable to this disease. Even small injuries can lead to fungus infection. One must take care of their feet if they have diabetes to evade such problems. Treatment of this is different for those who have diabetes. 

Weak Immune System

If you have a weak immune system it makes you vulnerable to infection. It is because our body usually fights off some funguses, which is hard if you have a weak immune system. Thus, one with weak immunity should practice high prevention steps to avoid this problem.

Prevention of Yellow Nails

There are many reasons why you could be affected by yellow nails. Some are genetic or unavoidable. But, if properly cared for, some of this could be avoided. 


You must have heard this a thousand times when you were children. That is because it helps you to dodge such types of issues. One should clean their nails properly. Especially if they have long nails, as dirt and fungus may stick underside of nails. Throughout the day, you come in contact with many surfaces. Understandably, you might pick some microbes. But when washed adequately, the microbe can be extracted from the skin. Thus, the risk could be evaded.

Throughout the day, you sweat. If the sweat is not cleaned it can cause problems such as fungus growth and rashes. Thus it can worsen the situation. Apart from this, one must opt for clean shoes and socks. The microbes can transfer from your shoes and socks to your toenails. It increases the risk of infection. Thus, one must clean their shoes and socks at regular intervals.

Moisturize Properly

Dry skin surrounding the nails is more prone to cuts, and damage. It makes it attractive to microbes and thus risks infection. Moisturise in the limit, as over-moisturization leaves the area extra wet leading to microbe growth.

Cut And File Your Nails Properly

Long nails have telltale signs of dirt accumulation. Microbes could accumulate in long nails. Cutting your nails at regular intervals lessens the probability of this. Filing your nail is necessary, as its blunt end can harm the skin. It can accumulate infection.

Wear Proper Footwear

While walking in public areas, such as swimming pools, gyms, public bathrooms, and others, make sure you use appropriate footwear. This footwear could be shoes, sandals, etc. It can help you avoid the microbes infection as much as possible. While many places provide footwear, it is advised to wear your footwear.

Let Your Feet Breathe

The material of the Year shoes and socks matter a lot. If the material of your shoes and socks is very rigid or unbreathable, it let the fungus grow and this can lead to many problems. Less breathability means more sweat, this is the most favorable condition for fungus growth.


If you have some injury on your feet, especially near nails, make sure to disinfect them properly. Make sure to clean it properly and treat it properly. The infected area is prone to attracting microbes. This microbe can settle on the toenail and grow into a nail infection.

One should disinfect the tools one uses regularly. It may sound like a lot of unnecessary work, but it is crucial. If you and your family use the same tools such as a nail cutter, file, etc., you definitely should disinfect it. It will ensure the nail health of all. If you visit a nail parlor, be ensured that all the tools they use are disinfected or fresh to utilize.

Clip It In Limit

When you clip/ cut your nails, do not go deeper on the sides. It is because there are high chances that you may trim it more than required and hurt yourself. The deeper cut is prone to bacterial infection. Thus, when you cut, cut it in straight like, and don't go much deeper on the sides.


Healthy skin and nails are crucial. Soaks are considered one of the ways to keep your feet healthy. Soak includes keeping your feet in water for a few minutes. But that's not it. Some things are mixed inside the water to make a solution that keeps feet healthy. It includes tea tree oil, Vicks vaporous, Epsom salt, and many more. It will help you keep your nail and skin soft. It leads to becoming less attractive to fungus. Each element has its benefit for your nails, we will learn more ahead.

Home Remedies

Home remedies are effective in dealing with minor problems, or keeping feet healthy. Following are some of the home remedies used to deal with yellow nails:

Baking Soda

Water with baking soda mixed in it forms an alkaline solution. These are unfavorable conditions for the fungus to grow. Thus, soaking your feet in this solution can help you get rid of fungus to at least lower its growth.  

Tea Tree Oil

It is believed to have bacterial properties. Thus, when a few drops of tea tree oil are mixed in water, it can be used to deal with fungus on feet.

Vick's Vaporub

It has antifungal properties in it. Thus, applying Vicks on your nails help you fight the fungus, and hinder their growth. American Academy of Dermatology Association suggests using petroleum jelly to lock moisture in the skin. Vicks vaporub has emerged as one of the most effective solutions for this. 

Hydrogen Peroxide

It is used as a stain remover due to its oxidizing properties. It is sometimes used by people to remove minor stains from nails. One adds hydrogen peroxide in water and soaks feet for a few minutes. After some uses, you can see the difference. 

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is found to be forming a protective layer on the skin. When applied in the area around the nails, it helps to prevent fungus settlement. 

Topical Treatment

Depending upon the cause of the yellow toenail, you may be prescribed topical treatment. Topical treatment refers to medications applied to the outer surface of the body. It includes ointments, gels, creams, and lotions. Some conditions can be treated with proper topic treatment. 

If dealing with a fungal infection, one may use antifungal and anti-bacterial creams and solutions available in the market. Clotrimazole or undecylenic acid is found to be most effective in treating fungus infection. Vitamin E is found to be effective in the treatment of yellow nails at a mild level. For this, you can use an oral supplement of vitamin E. You can apply vitamin E solution on the nails as well.

Medicated Cream

Medicated creams are like topical creams. The concentration of the medicative properties is higher in the medicated cream. They are used when the topical treatment is not effective. After careful examination, your doctor may prescribe you strong medicated treatment. One should always consult a professional before switching medication. This is so that you do not worsen the case.

Laser Treatment

Often none of the topical or medicated treatment may work for you. It might also be the case that your condition has no treatment available. In this scenario, there are chances that the situation worsens or is harmful to you and other nails. Your specialist doctor might suggest you opt for laser treatment to control the situation. 

Often the fungal infection spreads a lot. It can not be controlled by medication or creams and thus laser treatment is used to destroy the fungus and get rid of it.

There are conditions where the treatment has to be done so frequently that it can affect the health of the patient. Such as horns and nails. If the nail keeps getting bigger and distorted nail, the doctor might remove the entire nail plate. It can lead to the growth of good nails.


The nail is one of the parts of the body that are underrated yet crucial. Nails help your fingers and toes function properly. They protect your nails from harsh surroundings. It can also be used to enhance your beauty. But, several conditions cause damage and harm to the nails. It can have many effects on nails. One such effect is yellow toenails. 

Anyone can have yellow toenails. Certain people are more likely to have yellow toenails. It includes people who smoke, has diabetes, has a genetic disorder, and have immunity problems. Someone who is exposed to moist or wet area a lot are also likely to have yellow nails. 

 While some of the reasons for yellow toenails are harmless as they are natural, some reasons can be underlying diseases. Some of the causes of the yellow toenails are as mentioned below:

  • Aging: yellow nails are natural 
  • Nail polish stains: These stains can be removed and are harmless
  • Fungal infection: the fungus growth can lead to yellow nails. It sometimes separates the nail bed and nail plate, which can cause harm. 
  • Genetic conditions: some of the genetic conditions make the nail grow faster or make the person less immune to the fungus. This includes conditions like Nail psoriasis Ichthyosis, and Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). 
  • Immune disorder: In this condition, the immune system is affected. This leads to weak defense or a buildup of lymph in the lymphatic system. 

If the condition needs treatment one can opt for home remedies or medical treatment. If the case is severe the laser treatment for the extraction of nails is considered. One should consult an expert while choosing any of the treatment options. 

Certain ways are utilized to avoid fungus accumulation and make the feet healthy. These are as mentioned below:

  • Keep your toes and hands clean
  • Use clean shoes and socks
  • Use shoes that fit you well
  • Disinfect the tools you use for your nails
  • Trim your nails at regular intervals
  • Moisturize your feet regularly
  • Soak your feet often in some solutions to maintain healthy feet. These solutions can be made by mixing water with hydrogen peroxide, tea tree oil, baking soda, etc.


  • “How to treat yellow toenails” by BhamFoot
  • “Toenail Fungus” by Cleveland Clinic
  • “Remedies for thick yellow toenails” by WebMD
  • “What is yellow nail syndrome?” by WebMD
  • “What is nail psoriasis, and how can i treat it?” by American Academy of Dermatology.
  • “Tea tree oil” by mayo clinic
  • “How to get rid of yellow nails” by wikihow



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