Discoloured nails can also be an indicator of health issues such as infection or a chronic medical condition. Yellow, black, or white nails can be a symptom of nail fungus but in some cases trauma, nail psoriasis or other causes are to blame. If the discolouration is caused by nail fungus, it is usually accompanied by other symptoms, for example loose, crumbling and thickened nails. Nail fungus can also cause brittle nails.
Yellow nails are usually a symptom of a fungal infection and can affect anybody, although seniors and athletes are more susceptible than others. There are several types of fungal infections of the nails, each causing slightly different symptoms, and it is not unusual to have a combination of several different fungi. Yellow nails are often associated with fungi called dermatophytes, which also tend to infect the skin.
Sometimes the discolouration is due to the nail detaching from the nail bed, so called onycholysis. The space underneath the nail allows dirt to accumulate, causing the nail to look yellow, brown or sometimes a grey-white. Discoloured nails can also be a sign of nail psoriasis.
In rare cases, yellow nails are caused by a genetic disorder called yellow nail syndrome. Linked to respiratory disease and lymphedema, a condition that causes water retention and chronic swelling of the legs, yellow nail syndrome can cause the nails to thicken and turn yellow to yellow-greenish. Sometimes, the nails do not grow out properly. Yellow nails have also been associated with diabetes, poor circulation and a weakened immune system.
White nails can be caused by white superficial onychomycosis, a rare type of fungal infection that usually affects the toenails. These fungi colonize the surface of the nail plate, where they create white, powdery patches that grow and eventually cover the whole nail. The infection also causes the nail to become rough and crumbly. Endonyx onychomycosis, another form of nail fungus, can produce a milky white discolouration and onycholysis will occasionally cause white patches where the nail has loosened from the nail bed.
Black toenails are usually caused by trauma from injury or from frequently wearing tight or ill-fitting shoes. Accidents like stubbing or jamming your toe can cause blood to pool underneath the nail, making it look black, purple, red or brown. This is sometimes called a subungual hematoma and can be very painful due to the pressure that is built up underneath the nail. Black nails are often accompanied by swelling, unpleasant odor and discharge, and are prone to falling off a few days after the trauma. Walking barefoot and participating in sports increases your risk for accidental trauma of the toenails.
Discoloured nails that are black can also be a result of fungal infection.
Green nails are usually caused by a type of bacteria called pseudomonas, which infects the nail bed. These infections mainly affect people whose immune system is already weakened, especially those who are hospitalized for extended periods of time.
Fungal infections sometimes produce a yellow-green discolouration.
The proper treatment for discoloured nails depends on the underlying cause. Naloc is a topical fungal nail treatment that has been clinically proven to be effective on fungal nails. By a physical antifungal effect Naloc kills the fungi that typically cause nail infections. At the same the keratolytic effect gently softens the nail’s top layer, thereby removing discolourations to improve the appearance of the nail. Treating fungal nails requires patience, but with Naloc the first visible improvements are often seen already after two weeks.
If diabetes, lymphedema, or other disease is to blame for the discolouration, managing the underlying condition is key to treatment. Regardless of what is causing your nails to become discoloured it is important that you do not ignore your symptoms – the condition is unlikely to improve on its own and the sooner you start treatment the better.