If you take a minute and consider all of the possible issues that can arise in your lower limbs—and given the number of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments that sustain tremendous amounts of pressure, a lot can happen down there—yellowed toenails might not seem terribly important. After all, they don’t cause intense pain like plantar fasciitis or keep you from your favorite activities like Achilles tendonitis does.
That isn’t to say you aren’t affected by unsightly toenails, though. For starters, this can be an embarrassing condition, one that makes you self-conscious every time you are barefoot. Beyond embarrassment, discoloration might be the sign of an infection. If you have a disease that compromises your immune system, this becomes a definite concern.
Now, when you look at your toenails, you should expect to see clear, healthy nail tissue. If you don’t, the reason could be one of the following causes of yellow toenails:
- Fungal infection – Toenail fungus is a fairly common problem, and typically the most likely explanation for yellowed nails. One of the reasons fungal nail infections are so common is because fungi need warm, damp environments to survive. Your feet provide these conditions when encased in socks and shoes (especially ones that do not allow your feet to breathe!). Also, people frequently walk barefoot in places where the offensive fungus is often found, like pool decks and gym locker rooms and showering areas.
- Diabetes – One of the potential symptoms of diabetes in your lower limbs is yellowed toenails. In some cases, this happens because diabetes weakens your immune system, which makes you more susceptible to infection. More often, however, this is the result of sugar breakdown and how it effects collagen (a protein in your nail tissue).
- Other medical issues – In addition to diabetes, medical issues like tuberculosis (lung infection), bronchiectasis (damaged airways), jaundice (liver disease), psoriasis (skin condition causing scaly patches), and thyroid problems may also cause yellow nails.
- Natural aging processes – There are numerous ways your body is affected as it ages, including both diminished blood flow and toenails becoming thicker. Combined, these can lead to yellow coloration.
- Yellow Nail Syndrome – This is an extremely rare genetic disorder that can happen in conjunction with lymphedema (blockage in the lymphatic system). The actual cause of this disorder is still a bit of a mystery to the medical community.
- Stains from nail polish – Of course, it is entirely possible that the yellow color on your toenails is residue from nail polish, especially if you had painted them yellow, orange, or red.
As long as the abnormal coloration isn’t just nail polish stains, you should come in and see us if your nails are yellow. We can determine what has happened, and then make sure you receive the proper care to address it. This is especially important for fungal nails and diabetes since a fungal infection will not go away on its own and you need to have a diabetic foot care plan in place if you live with the disease.
For more information about fungal nails, diabetic foot care, or any of the foot and ankle services we provide, contact us today. Please feel free to either take advantage of our convenient online form or speak to one of our friendly staff members by calling (541) 776-3338. You can also call our Medford, OR office toll-free at (844) 899-6826.