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
- 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 ArticleFungal Nails Article
- What other conditions can be mistaken for fungal nails?
- What causes fungal nails, and what are some of the risk factors?
- Is nail fungus contagious?
- What are the symptoms and signs of fungal nails?
- How are fungal nails diagnosed?
- How is nail fungus treated?
- Are oral medications for nail fungus toxic?
- What about the cost of oral medications?
- How do you prevent fungal nails?
- What is the prognosis of fungal nails?
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 the symptoms and signs of lichen planus?
- What does lichen planus look like?
- How is lichen planus diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for lichen planus?
- What is the long-term prognosis of lichen planus?
In This ArticlePsoriasis Article
- Psoriasis facts
- What is psoriasis?
- What causes psoriasis?
- What does psoriasis look like? What are psoriasis symptoms and signs?
- Can psoriasis affect only my nails?
- Can psoriasis affect my joints?
- How do health-care professionals diagnose psoriasis?
- How many people have psoriasis?
- Is psoriasis curable?
- Is psoriasis contagious?
- Can I transmit the gene for psoriasis to my children?
- 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?
- What injections or infusions are available for psoriasis?
- What about light therapy for psoriasis?
- Where can people get more information on psoriasis?
- Is there a national psoriasis support group?
- What is the long-term prognosis with psoriasis? What are complications of psoriasis?
- What does the future hold?
In This ArticleSmokeless Tobacco Article
- Smokeless tobacco facts
- What is smokeless tobacco?
- What are the health risks of smokeless tobacco?
- Cancer risk
- Other health risks
- Is smokeless tobacco safer than cigarette smoking?
- What is being done to reduce the use of smokeless tobacco?
- What treatments are available to help people quit using smokeless tobacco?
In This ArticleSmoking (How to Quit Smoking) Article
- Smoking and quitting smoking facts
- What problems are caused by smoking?
- What is addictive disease and why is smoking considered an addictive disease?
- What are the signs of cigarette addiction?
- Why should someone quit smoking?
- What are the steps in quitting?
- Getting ready to quit smoking
- On the day you quit smoking
- Staying quit
- What methods can help a person quit smoking?
- Behavioral modification and self-help literature to quit smoking
- Nicotine replacement therapy to quit smoking
- What prescription products are available for smoking cessation?
- How are nicotine-containing products used safely?
- What is in the future for smoking?
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
Symptoms & Signs A-Z List
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