Causes of Discolored Toenails, Thick, Black, White and Yellow

Discolored Toenails: Causes of Discolored Toenails, Thick, Black, White and Yellow

Have you been curious about what causes your toenail to become thick, white, black, yellow or any discoloration? Here are some of the most common causes of discolored nails. 

Thick Toenails:

As we age, our nails will often become thicker. Thickening may also occur because of trauma to the toenail, such as when it constantly hits the end of a shoe that is too short. Every so often when something is dropped on the toenail, the nail will fall off. When a new toenail grows back, it will often be thicker than it was earlier. Thick toenails can also be seen in individuals with nail fungus (onychomycosis), psoriasis and hypothyroidism.

Yellow Toenails:

Yellow discoloration in the toenails is commonly caused by fungal infection. Fungus usually develops underneath the nail, resulting in it becoming thick, raised, and yellow in color. Other possible causes for yellow discoloration of the nail include diabetes mellitus and lymphedema (chronic leg swelling). Yellow staining of the nails can also occur in individuals who make use of nail polish. A discolored nail may take quite a few months to grow out.

White Toenails:

There are several reasons why someone may develop white toenails. Trauma, such as when an object is dropped on a toenail, often causes bleeding under the nail because of broken blood vessels. This would cause a black toenail. If the trauma does not cause broken blood vessels, a white spot may appear under the nail. The spot will slowly grow out with the normal growth of the toenail.

White lines can sometimes be seen within the toenails. These may be caused by regular trauma, such as when a runner wears shoes that are too small and the toe hits the end of the shoe. White lines may also appear due to a medical illness or trauma that has occurred elsewhere in the body, causing protein to be deposited within the nail bed.

A fungal infection that impacts the outermost layer of the toenail may affect a bright white discoloration of the toenail. A white area close to the nail fold (the lunula) differs in size from one person to another. This is a common aspect of the nail.

Black Toenails:

A black, purple, or brownish discoloration under a toenail is frequently due to damage to the toenail, such as when something is dropped on the toe. The color effects from a blood clot or bleeding under the nail and may involve the entire nail or just a small portion of it. When you break an entire nail, it can be very painful and may need medical attention to relieve the pressure caused by bleeding under the toenail.

When the second or third toenails are involved, it is commonly referred to as “runner’s toe.” This can be the result of the nail being slightly too long and the shoe being either too big or too tight. If the shoe is too big, when running downhill, the foot slips and the nail can get caught where the toe cap meets the toe box. If the shoes are too tight, the nail can get pinched and jammed, resulting in bleeding between the nail plate and nail bed.

Even though it is very unusual, a more serious cause of black toenails is malignant melanoma. Since early diagnosis and treatment of melanoma enhances the chances for a good outcome, it is important that all black toenails be evaluated by a qualified foot and ankle surgeon to rule out this cause. 

Rare causes of black toenails include fungal infections, chronic ingrown nails or health problems affecting the rest of the body.

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