What Does It Mean to Have Yellow Toenails? Treatment and Causes!

Should you panic if you see your toenails are turning yellow? Many people often ask what is the cause of yellow toenails. In most cases, it is nothing to be worrying about.

The most common reason for yellowing nails, be it on the hands or on the feet, is wearing nail polish for an extended period of time. Especially if you are a fan of darker polishes, you might see your yellow toenails more often. Darker polishes have a stronger leftover dye that can stain your nails.

That being said, nail polish is not the only cause for yellow toenails [1]. What are others? And how can you get rid of the yellow hue on your nails? We have the answers.

Causes of yellow toenails


Aside from nail polish, aging is another harmless condition that contributes to yellow toenails. It is only natural and logical answer.

As you grow older, the color, shape, and thickness of your nails changes [2]. Older people have more yellow color to their nails.

Fungal infection

A medical condition that is somewhat harming to your nails and causes them to change color is a fungal infection [3]. Fungus thrives in warm and moist environments.

That makes the toes a prime location for fungi to grow and breed. Because all of us wear shoes and socks sometimes all day, moisture is trapped. Add in poor circulation, and you have a perfect breeding ground for fungus.

Fungal infection almost always results in yellow toenails [4]. If you want to know whether a fungal infection is the cause, take this self-assessment test.

Ask your self are your toenails discolored, thick and flaky, are they filled with debris under the nail, do they have a bad smell and odor, are they splitting, and are they filled with pit marks.

If the answer to these questions is yes, then fungal infection is the definite cause for yellow toenails.

Medical condition

There are multiple medical conditions that result in yellow toenails. Among them, we mentioned fungal infection, but other infections can cause yellowing.

But in terms of a medical disorder, we have to mention the “yellow nail syndrome” [5]. So far, doctors have not identified the exact cause for yellow nail syndrome, but people usually have respiratory problems accompanying the syndrome.

Symptoms of the yellow nail syndrome include change in shape and thickness of the nails, bleeding, discharge, pain, and swelling.


Lymphedema is a condition caused by blockage in the lymphatic system, which is part of the circulatory system. The condition prevents lymph fluid from draining well [6].

The result is swelling, usually in your arms or legs. The affected limb becomes vulnerable to infections, like the fungal infection we mentioned earlier. Once the fungal infection affects your legs, your toenails become yellowish.


You will be surprised, but diabetes can actually affect the color and shape of your nails. Diabetes affects blood sugar. When there is imbalance in the blood sugar, glucose attaches to collagen proteins.

These proteins are the structural tissue in the nails, and when they are affected by glucose, they change the nail shade from normal to yellow [7].


If your physician rules out fungal infection, yellow nail syndrome, and other disorders, genetics might be the reason for your yellow toenails.

Studies have shown that yellow toenails have a genetic component, but it is not as often manifested as with other genetic-related conditions [8].

How to prevent yellow toenails?

You can easily prevent nails to become yellow by avoiding nail polish for extended periods, and by taking measures and precautions to prevent fungal infection.

Here are some tips how to prevent your nails from turning yellow:

  • Take a break from nail polish. As mentioned previously, extended usage of nail polish can result in yellow toenails. Consider going for a natural look for some time. Just a couple of weeks in between polishes will be enough to prevent your nails from turning yellow
  • Wear clean and dry socks all the time. We mentioned that fungus breeds and grows in moist places. Your socks need to be clean and dry to prevent fungus from spreading. Change your socks in the middle of the day if your feet tend to sweat
  • Clip your nails regularly. That means trimming straight across and then use an emery board to file down rough edges
  • Wear properly fitting shoes. Just as socks are important, proper fitting shoes are also important. Make sure to adjust your size if your feet grow. Feet can change in shape and size with weight gain, weight loss, and pregnancy. It is important to keep your shoes in line
  • Keep your nails clean and dry. Cutting is not the only hygiene habit. Make sure to wash your feet in the evening before going to bed to keep the feet and nails clean
  • Dry your feet well. If you take a shower daily, make sure to towel your feet for at least 30 seconds before getting dressed. You need to dry your feet well, and then put socks and shoes
  • Regularly air out your own shoes if you practice sports and outdoor activities. This way, you ensure the shoes are not wet when you wear them

Home remedies for yellow toenails

As mentioned in the beginning, there are quite a few home remedies for yellow toenails you can use.

Let’s stick to most popular ones.

Lemon juice

Anything that is super acidic will help, but lemon juice is just cream of the crop [9]. Rich in vitamin C, lemon juice helps your nails heal, regain their natural color, and look fresh.

However, you do not want to soak your nails in lemon juice for long hours. Simply rub lemon juice onto your nails to remove the yellowing for 30 to 60 seconds on each nail. Let your nails sit for 10 to 20 minutes, and then rinse with water.

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is another common ingredient used in many home and natural remedies [10].

For this purpose, you need 3% hydrogen peroxide and a cup of water. Dip a toothbrush into the mixture, and then rub each nail. You can also soak your feet in the solution for 10 minutes.

Tea tree oil

Many experts recommend tea tree oil as the best home remedy for yellow toenails. This essential oil works best when the cause is a fungal infection. Tea tree oil is very potent in fighting off fungus and bacteria [11].

Put a drop of tea tree oil dissolved in water on the nail beds, and then leave it to settle there for a couple of minutes. Rinse with warm water and that is it.

What Does It Mean to Have Yellow Toenails? Treatment and Causes!

Source :
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

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