Symptom Checker: Symptoms & Signs Index
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Nail discoloration, in which the nails appear white, yellow, or greenish, can result from different infections and conditions of the skin. In about 50% of cases, discolored nails are a result of infections with common fungi that can be found in the air, dust, and soil. There are many species of fungi that can affect nails. By far the most common, however, is called Trichophyton rubrum. This type of fungus has a tendency to infect the skin and is therefore known as a dermatophyte. Pseudomonas is a type of bacteria that infects the nail bed and result in a greenish color to the nails. Red or black nails may result from a hematoma (a collection of blood) under the nail as a result of trauma (including ingrown toenails).
Chronic medical conditions also can affect the appearance of the nails. Specific color changes in the nails can be suggestive of diabetes or of liver, kidney, heart, or lung conditions. This is why doctors pay specific attention to nails during a routine physical examination.
Other, rare causes of discolored nails include the "yellow nail syndrome," an inherited condition that results in slow-growing, discolored nails and is associated with lymphedema (swelling of tissues due to the accumulation of fluid) and lung diseases. Nails may also appear lightened to a whitish-yellow color if there has been separation of the nail from the nail bed, termed onycholysis.
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Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.
Causes of Nail Discoloration
In This ArticleAtopic Dermatitis Article
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- How is atopic dermatitis diagnosed?
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- Type 2 diabetes
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In This ArticleFungal Nails Article
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- Is nail fungus contagious?
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- How is nail fungus treated?
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- What about the cost of oral medications?
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- Introduction to high blood pressure (hypertension) and kidney disease
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- Hope Through Research
In This ArticleIngrown Toenail Article
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- What causes ingrown toenails?
- Are some people more prone to ingrown toenails?
- Which nails are most commonly affected?
- What causes infections in ingrown toenails?
- What are possible complications of ingrown toenails?
- How do I treat an ingrown toenail at home?
- When should I see a physician?
- What kind of doctor treats ingrown toenails?
- How are ingrown toenails treated?
- What types of nail surgery are used for ingrown toenails?
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- Ingrown Toenail Do's
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- Ingrown Toenail At A Glance
In This ArticleJaundice (Adults) Article
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- Jaundice in adults
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- Pre-hepatic causes
- Hepatic causes
- Post-hepatic causes
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- What are the risk factors for jaundice in adults?
- How is jaundice in adults diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for jaundice in adults?
- What are the complications of jaundice in adults?
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- Smokeless Tobacco At A Glance
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Other Causes of Nail Discoloration
- Bacterial Infection
- Chronic Lung Diseases
- Drug Hypersensitivity (for Example, Tetracycline)
- Liver Disease
- Senile Ischemia (Onychogryphosis)
- Staining From Nail Varnish or Cosmetic Products
- Yellow Nail Syndrome
Examples of Medications for Nail Discoloration
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