Coloring Toenails: Why Your Nails Aren’t Clear

Robert G. Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

fungal toenails under magnifying lensYou can tell a clean window from a dirty one at a single glance. A clean window allows you to see through the glass to the scene beyond without any difficulty. Dirty windows, however, obscure whatever’s behind them.

Of course, knowing that your windows are dirty isn’t the same as knowing the reason why they aren’t clear. For that, you need a closer investigation. You can generally tell the difference between clear and discolored nails, too. For discolored toenails, however, there could be more than one cause.

Nails turn yellow, black, or otherwise dull for a number of reasons. The most common is a fungal infection. Fungus dulls and distorts the hard keratin. Usually the result includes toenails that appear yellowish or greyish in color. Fungus can also pull the keratin away from the nail bed and allow debris to collect underneath it, turning it dark. You need active treatment for this problem to get your nails to grow clear again.

Dr. Parker performing laser therapyInjuries can also change your nail color. Stubbing your toe hard or dropping something heavy on your foot can cause mild bleeding under the hard keratin. This “bruise” creates a dark patch that discolors your toenail. This is particularly common with runners, since banging your toes against the front of your shoes repeatedly can damage them. Occasionally mild trauma will cause a small white spot on your nail instead. In both cases, the discoloration will grow out.

Occasionally other factors may contribute to nail discoloration. Medications may affect how your toenails grow and turn them unusual colors. You see this sometimes with chemotherapy drugs and medicines to treat human immunodeficiency virus. Another rare cause includes yellow nail syndrome, which is a condition that’s often inherited and causes slow, yellow keratin growth.

Discolored nails might be harmless, but in many cases, they are a first sign of infections, injuries, or other issues in the body. Don’t take your nail discoloration for granted. If you’re not sure what caused the change, let our team at Parker Foot & Ankle help you diagnose and take care of the problem. Our office offers state-of-the-art Fotona laser treatment for fungal toenails, a painless and side-effect-free process that has proven to equal or exceed traditional treatment methods in both safety and effectiveness. Contact our Houston, TX, office through our website. You can also call us directly at (281) 497-2850.

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