What The Color Of Your Toenails Reveals About Your Health

While we can change the color of our toenails with a pedicure, discoloration of our nails in their natural state can signify a number of health problems (via Healthline). A healthy toenail is typically smooth, clear, and partly translucent. If you notice any changes in color on or around your toenails, pay attention. "Anything that doesn't look normal ought to be addressed," says Christine Poblete-Lopez, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic, in a post on the hospital's website. "Your best course of action is to see a doctor as soon as possible."

Several issues may cause toenail discoloration. One possible reason is staining from nail polish (via Healthline). This is more likely to occur when polish has been left on nails for a long time, or with red or orange hues. Discoloration can also occur as the result of a nail fungus, which can cause yellow nails. An injury called a subungual hematoma, which causes nails to appear red or purple and then change to dark brown or black, can result from stubbing your toe, dropping something on your foot, or wearing shoes that are too tight. Sometimes, nail discoloration can be a sign of an underlying health condition, such as psoriasis, kidney failure, and cirrhosis of the liver. Finally, a rare condition called yellow nail syndrome causes nails to turn yellow. It often occurs alongside other medical conditions like lymphedema, lung disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune conditions.

How to treat discolored toenails

In most instances, treating the underlying cause of the discolored toenails should return toenails back to their normal color (via Healthline). A mild nail fungus, for example, can be treated with over-the-counter antifungal medication. If you have a more severe fungus infection, usually identifiable by pain or thick, crumbling, and discolored nails, see your doctor. Subungual hematomas usually heal on their own within a few days, but it does take several months for the discolored nail to completely grow out. If nail polish is the cause of discolored nails, taking a break from it can help get nails back to a healthy color. Talk to your doctor about treating underlying health conditions like psoriasis, cirrhosis, or rheumatoid arthritis, and how that may affect toenail discoloration.

To prevent toenail discoloration, there are some things to keep in mind. Always dry your feet well after swimming or showering, and avoid walking barefoot in public places to prevent infections (via UPMC). Wear proper-fitting shoes along with clean socks to avoid injury, and make sure to keep toenails trimmed short. Finally, consider spraying an antifungal spray on your shoes to prevent infection.