Symptom Checker: Symptoms & Signs Index
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Nail discoloration, in which the nails appear white, yellow, or green, 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 results in a greenish color to the nails. Red or black (that may sometimes appear bruised) 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, yellowing, 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.
The skin, mucous membranes, and nails may appear blue when there is inadequate oxygenation of blood (cyanosis), but this is not true discoloration of the nail itself.
Health concern on your mind? Visit the Symptom Checker.
Longo, D.L., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2011.
Causes of Nail Discoloration
In This ArticleAtopic Dermatitis Article
- Atopic dermatitis facts
- What is atopic dermatitis?
- What is the difference between atopic dermatitis and eczema?
- How common is atopic dermatitis?
- What causes atopic dermatitis?
- Is atopic dermatitis contagious?
- What are atopic dermatitis symptoms and signs?
- Can atopic dermatitis affect the face?
- What are the stages of atopic dermatitis?
- How do physicians diagnose atopic dermatitis?
- What factors can aggravate atopic dermatitis?
- What are skin irritants in patients with atopic dermatitis?
- What are allergens?
- What are aeroallergens?
- What is the treatment for atopic dermatitis?
- What is the prognosis of atopic dermatitis?
In This ArticleDiabetes (Type 1 and Type 2) Article
- Diabetes facts
- What is diabetes?
- What is the impact of diabetes?
- What causes diabetes?
- What are the different types of diabetes?
- Type 1 diabetes
- Type 2 diabetes
- Other types of diabetes
- What are diabetes symptoms?
- How is diabetes diagnosed?
- Why is blood sugar checked at home?
- What are the acute complications of diabetes?
- What are the chronic complications of diabetes?
- What can be done to slow diabetes complications?
In This ArticleHeart Disease (Coronary Artery Disease) Article
- What is heart disease?
- What are the risk factors for heart disease?
- What causes heart disease?
- What are the symptoms of heart disease?
- How is heart disease diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for heart disease?
- What is the prognosis for heart disease?
- Can heart disease be prevented?
In This ArticleHypertensive Kidney Disease Article
- High blood pressure and kidney disease facts*
- Introduction to high blood pressure (hypertension) and kidney disease
- What is high blood pressure?
- How does high blood pressure hurt the kidneys?
- What are the signs and symptoms of high blood pressure?
- What are the signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease? (CKD)?
- How can kidney damage from high blood pressure be prevented?
- How can high blood pressure be controlled?
- Can medicines help control blood pressure?
- Who is at risk for kidney failure related to high blood pressure?
- Hope Through Research
In This ArticleIngrown Toenail Article
- Ingrown toenail facts
- What are ingrown toenails?
- What are the symptoms and signs of an ingrown toenail?
- What causes ingrown toenails?
- Are some people more prone to ingrown toenails?
- Which nails are most commonly affected by ingrown toenails?
- What causes infections in ingrown toenails?
- How do physicians diagnose an ingrown toenail?
- What are possible complications of ingrown toenails?
- How do people treat an ingrown toenail at home?
- When should someone seek medical treatment for an ingrown toenail?
- What kind of doctor treats ingrown toenails?
- What is the treatment for ingrown toenails?
- What types of nail surgery are used for ingrown toenails?
- How can people prevent ingrown toenails from recurring?
- Ingrown toenail do's
- Ingrown toenail dont's
- What is the prognosis for an ingrown toenail?
In This ArticleJaundice (Adults) Article
- Jaundice definition
- Jaundice in adults
- What causes jaundice in adults?
- Pre-hepatic causes
- Hepatic causes
- Post-hepatic causes
- What are the symptoms of jaundice in adults?
- 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?
- Can jaundice in adults be prevented?
- What is the prognosis of jaundice in adults?
In This ArticleLichen Planus Article
- Lichen planus facts
- What is lichen planus?
- What causes lichen planus?
- How is the rash of lichen planus different from that of most other common rashes?
- What are lichen planus symptoms and signs?
- What does lichen planus look like?
- How is lichen planus diagnosed?
- Are there home remedies for lichen planus?
- What is the treatment for lichen planus?
- What is the long-term prognosis of lichen planus?
In This ArticleLymphedema Article
- Lymphedema facts
- What is lymphedema?
- What does lymphedema look like (pictures)?
- What causes lymphedema?
- What are the symptoms of lymphedema?
- How is lymphedema diagnosed?
- What are possible treatments for lymphedema?
- What are complications of lymphedema?
- Can lymphedema be prevented?
- What is the prognosis for lymphedema?
- Where can one get help and support for lymphedema?
In This ArticlePsoriasis Article
- Psoriasis facts
- What is psoriasis?
- What are causes and risk factors of psoriasis?
- What are the different types of psoriasis?
- Can psoriasis affect my joints?
- Can psoriasis affect only my nails?
- What are psoriasis symptoms and signs? What does psoriasis look like?
- How do health-care professionals diagnose psoriasis?
- How many people have psoriasis?
- Is psoriasis contagious?
- Is there a cure for psoriasis?
- Is psoriasis hereditary?
- What kind of doctor treats psoriasis?
- What is the treatment for psoriasis?
- What creams, lotions, and home remedies are available for psoriasis?
- What oral medications are available for psoriasis?
- What injections or infusions are available for psoriasis?
- Is there a psoriasis diet?
- What about light therapy for psoriasis?
- What is the long-term prognosis with psoriasis? What are complications of psoriasis?
- Is it possible to prevent psoriasis?
- What does the future hold for psoriasis?
- Is there a national psoriasis support group?
- Where can people get more information on psoriasis?
Other Causes of Nail Discoloration
- Bacterial Infection
- Chronic Lung Diseases
- Drug Hypersensitivity (for Example, Tetracycline)
- Senile Ischemia (Onychogryphosis)
- Staining From Nail Varnish or Cosmetic Products
- Yellow Nail Syndrome
Examples of Medications for Nail Discoloration
Symptoms & Signs A-Z List
Find out what women really need.