Yellow Toenails

Our body often talks to us – aches and pains as reminders of a hard day’s work or headaches from stress – are messages we hear loud and clear, but often the messages are far more subtle than that. One area that too often gets ignored is our feet.

It is very important to pay attention to your toenails, as they are the storytellers of our body’s health. At the first sign of discoloration, you should seek medical attention from a podiatrist or foot doctor. Yellow toenails can be caused by various conditions and diseases including a fungal infection (the most common cause), diabetes, yellow nail syndrome, or lymphedema (chronic leg swelling). 


The most common cause of yellow toenails is toenail fungus. Fungi love warm, moist, and dark places such as close-toed shoes that allow sweat to mix with bacteria or not allow your toenails to air out properly once wet. Athletes are more susceptible to fungal infections and trauma. Wearing the same shoes every day, especially if you sweat excessively and do not allow your shoes to air out between uses, can promote fungal and bacterial infections.

Yellow toenails should be taken seriously and checked out by a podiatrist to rule out a rare genetic disorder called Yellow Nail Syndrome. It is characterized by marked thickening and yellow to yellow-greenish discolorations of the nails, pleural effusions (excess fluid in the space that surrounds the lungs and compromises breathing), a systemic disease such as lymphedema (localized fluid retention and tissue swelling), and yellow, dystrophic nails (nails that did not develop properly). Additional causes of yellow toenails include applying and/or removing toenail polish; diabetes, circulation problems or weakened immune systems, and brittle or weak toenails.

Treatments prescribed for milder fungal infections include a medicated polish containing the ingredient cicloprox that you apply daily for six to nine months or until the infection is gone, which could take about a year. If the infection is more severe, an oral antifungal medication such as Sporanox or Lamisil can be prescribed. If these treatment methods fail, your doctor may consider a surgical removal of your infected toenail, allowing a new nail to grow in, but this process may take up to a year. Yellow toenails usually do not go away on their own.

To prevent a toenail fungus infection from spreading to (or catching it from) others, never share towels or walk around barefoot in areas that others may come into contact with; always wear shoes or sandals in public showers, locker rooms, health spas, and gyms. Lastly, avoid swimming pools and pool areas where others may be walking around barefoot.

At Dalhousie Station Foot Clinic, we offer oral medication, topical drugs, and laser treatments for nail fungus. We also specialize in prescription foot orthotics. No matter what ailments affect your feet, at Dalhousie Station Foot Clinic, we provide the required treatment to patients of all ages. If your foot pain disrupts your day-to-day comfort, your athletic lifestyle, or your ability to wear fashionable shoes, contact us at 403-450-8285 today.