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Yellow Toenails

Description

Yellow is such a cheerful color, isn’t it? Red is too aggressive, blue too depressing, orange too rowdy, green too moldy, and purple is just too…purple. But yellow is the color of sunshine, the hearts of daisies, and little baby chicks. It’s as if happiness had been simmered in a big pot until everything else was drained out except for a big ol’ pool of yellow.

As nice as the color can be though, there are some things that we definitely don’t want to be yellow. Like toenails, for instance. Toenails really do best when they’re a nice, healthy sort of pinkish color. But certain things can make your toenails turn yellow, which may be one of the only times you find the color rather depressing.

Fungal infections of the toenail are probably the most common cause of yellow nail discoloration, although they can also turn yellow because of diabetes, psoriasis (it can affect the nail bed and make the nail appear yellow or yellowish-pink), chronic leg swelling caused by problems with the lymphatic system (lymphedema) and even staining from nail polish.

Symptoms

Your yellow nails may involve other symptoms as well (and they’re not necessarily an outpouring of cheerfulness or more frequent encounters with baby chicks), depending on what’s causing your yellowed nails. Fungal infections often also make the nail thickened and brittle, and you may notice debris collecting under the nail. Toenails that are housing fungal intruders also tend to emit an unpleasant odor (which may just scare the baby chicks away anyway).

Diabetes has many symptoms, including an increase in thirst, urination, extreme hunger, fatigue, unexplained loss of weight, a tingling sensation or loss of feeling (numbness) in your extremities (hands and feet), blurry vision, or wounds that are slow to heal.

Psoriasis sometimes also involves patches of irritated skin (usually reddish, or silvery and flaky) on other parts of your body. Your nails may also develop pits or dents in the surface and may come away from the nail bed, or you may even develop psoriatic arthritis, which can feel a lot like rheumatoid arthritis.

Lymphedema’s main symptom is actually chronic swelling in your entire leg (or arm), including your toes or fingers. It usually happens in just one leg or arm, but can occur in both at the same time. Your affected leg will also probably feel heavy, tight, achy, may be harder to move around, and may have thick and hard skin. Legs affected by lymphedema also tend to develop infections more easily.

Diagnosis

Yellow may be your podiatrist’s favorite color, but he or she knows that yellow toenails aren’t necessarily something to be happy about. When you go in to see him or her about your unusually cheerful toenails, your podiatrist will need to ask you about your symptoms. He or she will ask you about the color and texture of your toenail, as well as other qualities, such as luster (how shiny it is), brittleness, and possible deformities or ridges. You’ll also want to tell your podiatrist if you have any other symptoms like those described above, or others.

Diagnostic tests may be used, such as nail scraping (to test for fungal infection), blood tests, CT scans, MRIs, ultrasound tests, X-rays, or other tests to determine the cause of your yellow toenails.

Treatment

As always, treatment depends on the cause of your symptoms. Fungal infections are usually treated by using topical or oral anti-fungal medications, and if the infection is severe, the nail may need to be removed in order to apply the medication directly to the nail bed.

Psoriasis, diabetes and lymphedema aren’t curable conditions. (Which may make even yellow seem sad.) Fortunately, many treatments are available to make life as comfortable for you as possible, and to preserve your health. For instance, psoriasis can be treated using topical medications, phototherapy (applying ultraviolet or other light to the skin), or other medications taken orally, by injection, or infusion.

Diabetes will need to be treated comprehensively by a team of medical professionals. The most important goal is to keep your blood sugar under control. Doing so will help prevent damage to your nerves and blood vessels. Regular visits with your doctors (including your podiatrist) and following your doctors’ instructions will help keep you in the best health possible.

Treating lymphedema revolves around reducing the swelling in your leg. This may involve special exercises, massages, wrapping your leg, pneumatic compression (wearing a sleeve that that’s intermittently inflated), and compression stockings.

With proper treatment, you should find an improvement in your health and your outlook in life. And yellow should once again seem like the most cheerful of all colors.


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