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Yellow nails are, in the purely aesthetic viewpoint, not normal. They are unsightly, and sometimes, even are a cause some discomfort and a slightly foul smell. Take note that aside from the discoloration itself, you might not exhibit the latter two descriptions, depending on why you have yellow nails to begin with. Diet and lifestyle can both affect nail health and understanding their impact on nail health can help better understand the underlying issues associated with yellow nails.

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Root Causes

Are yellow nails something you should worry about? Before answering this, you must first understand what its different causes. What you will find out, later on, is that this occurrence can be a result of many things, some of which aren’t serious, and others, something you should take seriously.

Excessive use of nail polish

Contrary to popular belief, nails are not hard and firm, but are actually porous. Therefore, the pigment from the nail polish, especially the darker ones, are absorbed. Its iron oxide content is then oxidized, giving the rust-like color to your nails.

Does this mean you’ll be stuck with yellow nails forever? Here’s some good news: not only is this impermanent, it can also be easily avoided by applying a clear coat before your heavily-pigmented nail polish. You can also try going bare for a while, at least until the yellow stain wears off.

Aging

If you’re already hitting a certain age and have yellow nails, perhaps it’s nothing to be worried about. As people grow older, the shape, color, and thickness of their nails tend to change as well.

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However, getting older also means having a weaker immune system, you should not so quickly reduce such changes to just a fact of life. As what I will discuss next, it can be a sign of something more serious.

Yellow nail syndrome

Yellow nail syndrome is a rare disease which is more common in people aged 50 and above than in children. Aside from the nail discoloration, your nails may also grow very slowly, lack a cuticle, and even become partially or completely detached.

Unfortunately, nails are not the only thing you have to worry about because having this disorder means suffering from lower limb swelling and respiratory problems as well. While the cause of this disease is currently unknown, the treatment is not.

In possibly curing your nails of discoloration, you need to go under treatments that address the different diseases you are exhibiting. Whether or not your nails will go back to normal as a result is not guaranteed, so you may need to look into cures directly addressing this problem.

Nail infection

If you are fond of swimming in public pools or using the gym shower, you may just get your nails infected. Even in your own tub at home, you may not be safe. Infections of any kind, including nail infections, easily spread especially where people gather in large groups.

Without any protection, your nails can be infected. Nail fungus, in particular, is not only very common, but is also not easily detectable. Given this information, it is easy to see how people can be unknowingly spreading them.

You can avoid infections by employing hygienic practices such as wearing a clean pair of socks, always wearing sandals or shoes especially in areas receiving heavy foot traffic, as well as thoroughly washing and drying your feet daily.

What are the treatment options available?

Because other causes of yellow nails mentioned here need a different approach such as targeting the respiratory disease itself, only cures for nail infections will be discussed here.

The cost of treatment varies, depending on the severity of the case. Here are some of the treatment options that you can apply:

Over-the-counter topical treatments

Topical solutions contain tea tree oil and undecylenic acid which, when combined, are very effective in treating nail infections. The former has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antifungal properties, thus helping keep your infected nails clean and combat fungus. Because it’s an oil, tea tree oil also helps in relieving discomfort.

What undecylenic acid does, on the other hand, penetrate the tissues. This helps the tea tree oil to go deeper to allow maximum effectiveness.

Home Remedies

While these have not been scientifically proven to be effective, some people are using it to address their nail infections. The most common household items they use for this are the following:

  • Vinegar
  • Mouthwash
  • Hydrogen peroxide

The logic behind using home remedies is “killing” the fungus without resorting to more extreme and potentially-damaging alternatives. While these definitely have antiseptic properties, they do not necessarily cure the nail infection. In fact, these may even cause irritation, depending on how sensitive your skin and your nails are.

Oral prescription medications

Oral medications, even those that are not for fungal infections, are often associated with side effects, some of which can cause life-threatening complications. Because it takes months or more than a year before the infection is fully treated, you will be exposed to these side effects for a longer time.

Surgical Treatment

For severe cases, you have three options:

  • Mechanical nail removal
  • Surgical nail removal
  • Laser treatments

These are often deemed to be the last resort, employed when you are not responding to milder treatments like topical and oral medications. For all three options, a portion or the entire nail, as well as underlying infected tissues, are removed. Where they differ is the approach, which you can infer from their names. Of all your treatment options, surgical treatment is the most expensive a health care provider is involved to execute it.

So, are yellow nails a health issue?

Yellow nails, in itself, are not really a health issue. They aren’t even bad if we are not to consider the aesthetics. Instead, they can be a byproduct of underlying medical conditions such as those that we mentioned earlier. Sometimes, as you have seen, they are not something of concern at all.

Final Considerations

No matter what its cause, what’s important is maintaining good hygiene. Doing so would help you reduce its possible roots, thus allowing you seek the appropriate treatment options for your case. If you are unsure of the cause or are experiencing physical discomfort because yellow nails, you should see your doctor.

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Emily Amhearst
Emily is a health writer and blogger focused on helping spread positive news and valuable information for everyone to share. Her personal journey in health has left her with a strong love for Organic foods, quality supplements, and daily exercise routines.