Yellow toenails are unsightly and embarrassing. They are also difficult to treat because your natural inclination is probably to keep them covered with polish or closed toed shoes. Unfortunately, covering them is the worst thing you can do.
Yellow toenails are usually caused by fungal infection, and fungus thrives in closed spaces with little oxygen (e.g. encased in shoes or sealed with nail polish). Other causes include some serious medical conditions such as:
- Weakened immune system
- Yellow nail syndrome
- Circulation problems
It is also possible for yellowing of the nails to be caused by staining from continuous use of dark colored nail polish. In any event, when toenails become yellow, you should stop polishing and seek medical treatment to diagnose and alleviate the condition.
About fungal infections
Nail fungus is the most common and most likely cause of yellow nails. It survives and thrives by feeding on keratin, which is a protein contained in non-living tissue such as toenails. When it becomes established, it infects the nail bed and the plate that lies beneath the nail surface.
The longer it has to develop, the harder it is to get rid of. That’s why it is very important to begin correct treatment as soon as you notice yellowing of the nail, which may very well indicate the presence of fungus.
If left untreated, symptoms of nail fungus infection can compound. Before you know it, in addition to discolored nails, you may find that you have developed:
- Thickening of the nails
- Brittle, easily broken nails
- Dull, rough nails
How can you get rid of yellow toenails?
Proper treatment is dependent upon proper diagnosis. Depending upon the cause of your condition, you may need to change your lifestyle habits, use topical medication and/or take oral medication.
If your problem is caused by a fungal infection, regular treatment should eventually restore your toenails to their proper appearance. This can be a lengthy process, though. If the infection is well-established, it can take months to eradicate it completely. The yellow discoloration will disappear as the nail grows out and infected tissue is replaced with healthy tissue.
Very severe cases of toenail fungus may require laser treatment or even surgery to remove the nail entirely. It can take well over a year for a new nail to grow back in place of the removed nail. Sometimes the nail does not grow back. Clearly, it is very important to see your doctor right away for diagnosis and treatment before nail fungus becomes severe!
Why not use over-the-counter treatments?
Because there are several different types of nail fungus, it’s very smart to see your doctor and/or a podiatrist to get a proper diagnosis before you begin treatment. The right medications and treatment can have near-miraculous effects; however, a mismatch of medication to type of fungus may have little or no effect. If you have been using non-prescription toenail fungus treatments without success, you should definitely invest in a professional diagnosis.
Although yellow nails may just be a symptom of a simple fungal infection, it is important to understand that they may also be an indication of a more serious underlying condition.
For example, people with diabetes are very prone to developing fungal infections of the toenails. Additionally, other foot problems and complications are common for people with diabetes. Catching the symptoms early and treating underlying causes is an excellent way to ensure successful treatment.
Developing a healthy lifestyle is always smart!
It is also smart to develop healthy lifestyle habits that will keep you in good general health. If you have a strong immune system, your body can fight off fungal infections quite well. Take these precautions in your everyday routine:
- Purchase an anti-fungal soap or foot wash product to give your feet a little special pampering every day. Products that contain tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, clove or jojoba oil and/or lavender are quite effective in combating fungal infections.
- Treating your feet to a daily soak can be very relaxing and will help prevent fungal infections of your nails and problems with athlete’s foot. You may wish to invest in a foot spa to make this treatment even more luxurious and enjoyable. Be sure to dry your feet thoroughly and apply anti-fungal treatments immediately following your soak.
- Even though yellow nails are not pretty to look at, you should avoid polishing your toenails until your infection has completely cleared up. Polish puts a watertight seal over your nail. This sets up a moist environment that is very conducive to fungus growth. Naturally, having polish on your nails also interferes with the application of topical treatments.
- Follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding topical treatments. Apply anti-fungal creams and preparations regularly and consistently. Failure to do so could allow the fungus to build up resistance to the treatment.
- To remove the yellowing and help your nails rebuild and resist fungus in future, ask your doctor about extra strength nail gels and specialty polishes that are made for this purpose.
- Understand that fungus is very tough, and when it is located under your toenails it is also very difficult to access for treatment. Even if your nails seem to have recovered, you must be certain to use up all the treatment products your doctor recommends. It is also important to develop and follow good foot care habits to prevent recurrence.
- Invest in good nail care equipment and learn to give yourself a proper pedicure and trim your nails correctly. You must keep your nail care equipment clean and sharp and trim your toenails straight across to avoid developing ingrown toenails. When your nails in-grow, fungus is able to establish itself in the inflamed (and painful) ingrown area.
- Avoid trimming your toenails too short. If you trim down to the “quick” (the very sensitive area underneath the nail) you will cause yourself quite a bit of pain and give fungus a way to get under your nails.
- Avoid going barefoot because fungus is everywhere. This is especially true in damp, humid areas such as locker rooms. Always wear some sort of shoe. Even flip flops will give your feet some protection from exposure to fungus.
- Keep your feet dry and clean. Sweat combined with dirt and germs provide an excellent breeding ground for fungus. Wear good quality socks that wick moisture away from your skin. Be sure that your shoes are clean and in good condition, and use an anti-fungal foot powder on your feet and in your shoes.
- If you decide to indulge in a professional pedicure, be sure to go to a licensed practitioner in an accredited salon or spa. It’s a good idea to visit the location before your appointment and have a look at the premises and the equipment to make certain it is clean and well-maintained.
If you are suffering with yellow toenails, don’t despair! Recovery is possible, but it may take quite a bit of patience, effort and diligence on your part. Follow the tips presented here to do away with yellow nails for good.
Disclaimer: PediReviews.co.uk does not provide medical advice, treatment or diagnosis.