Yellow Nails: Causes and Treatments 

The condition of the nails gives you an interesting insight to the internal health. Ailments ranging from arthritis to heart disease to liver trouble can cause the nails to change in appearance and color. Yellowing of the nails can be caused by several conditions, some of which are perfectly mundane like nail fungus while others can be dangerous. Noting the other symptoms and taking the steps to take care of the yellow nails can help avoid health issues that can affect your body as a whole.

Causes of Yellow Nails



Nail Fungus

Yellow nails are often a sign that you are suffering from a fungal infection. This discoloration can also be accompanied by an unpleasant odor and flaking of the nails. Your doctor will be able to identify a fungal infection and prescribe an appropriate medication to clear up the infection.

Nail Polish

Wearing nail polish can stain your nails an unsightly color. Dark colors are particularly likely to leave a yellow tint on the nails. Apply a base coat before applying dark pigments to the nails to help prevent this. Leave the nails bare and allow them to breathe for a few days between colors so you can avoid suffocating the nail tissue.

Potential Diseases

Jaundice can cause the fingernails and other parts of the body to appear yellow. Other conditions such as iron deficiencies, zinc deficiencies, lung disease, liver disease, etc. can cause the nails to yellow. Noting your other symptoms can help you determine what might be causing your nails to change color.

Yellow Nail Syndrome

Those that have issues with their lymphatic system can develop a condition known as yellow nail syndrome. This rare condition will cause the nails to separate from the bed and turn a golden-yellow color.


Smoking on a regular basis will stain the skin on the fingers, causing it to appear a brownish-yellow. This can also affect the color of the nails. Smokers that suddenly develop yellow nails should make the effort to quit as this is a sign that the smoke has started to impact your lung and heart health.

Treatments for Yellow Nails

1. Whiten Nails

Whitening solutions can easily be made with ingredients you probably already have at home. Baking soda, denture cleaners and hydrogen peroxide can be applied to the nails to help whiten them without causing damage to the tissue. Whitening pencils are also available at drug stores that are said to help freshen the color of your nails.

2. Use Anti-fungal Medications

Fungus is one of the most common causes of yellow nails, so there are many products available to help treat this condition. In most cases you will need to visit your doctor to get antifungal medication that will permanently rid your nails of this unpleasant growth. These medications are typically consumed orally, allowing the body to expel the damaged nail and grow healthier replacement tissue. Be sure to talk over how to use these medications properly with your doctor as they can cause dangerous side effects including heart and liver trouble. Tea tree oil can help to fight fungal infections on the nails due to its antibacterial compounds. Dilute the tea tree oil and apply it directly on the nail to get the full effects. It is not meant to be taken orally.

3. Keep Good Hygiene

Caring properly for your nails is essential to avoiding conditions that can cause them to yellow. When washing the hands, lather up the soap with warm water, scrubbing the hands for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to wash in the spaces between the fingers and underneath the nails to dislodge any bacteria, fungus or dirt. Dry the hands thoroughly to prevent creating an environment where fungus can grow. Apply moisturizer each day to keep the nails hydrated. Olive oil or petroleum jelly can also be used to keep hands hydrated. Keep nails trimmed but avoid biting as this can damage the skin and spread bacteria.

4. Take Supplements

Zinc deficiencies can often cause the nails to yellow. Taking zinc can help you relieve this condition. Vitamin E is also helpful in managing your skin, hair, nails and eyes so you can encourage your nails to remain a healthy color. Other vitamins and minerals that can be taken to improve your nail health include B vitamins, protein and iron, which help your nails grow at a more efficient rate.

5. Choose the Right Products

Harsh nail products can cause discoloration and damage to the tissue. Avoid dark colored polishes as these can cause discoloration. Harsh nail polishes or polish removers that contain ingredients such as formaldehyde, acetone, methanol, phthalates or sulfonamide-formaldehyde resin can cause discoloration or damage to the nail over time.

6. Treat Potential Conditions

If you believe that your unsightly nail color is being caused by an underlying medical condition it is important to speak to your doctor. The sooner you get these conditions treated, the less damage they are likely to do to the rest of the body. Some medications can cause unwanted side effects, including discoloration of the nails. Acne treatments such as tetracycline are known for causing these side effects. Some antibiotics can also cause discoloration, though this is typically more of a bluish hue. HIV/AIDs medications or chemotherapy can also cause the nails to become darker.

7. Improve Lifestyle

Avoid keeping your nails in dark, moist environments for long periods of time as this can increase your risk of a fungal infection. Similarly, avoid walking barefoot in public showers as this can expose your feet to contaminants that can damage the nails. Smokers will frequently suffer from yellow nails. Those that are suffering from this condition will only be able to return the nails to a normal color if they quit this habit.