Yellow Fingernails

Why Yellow Fingernails Should Never Be Taken Lightly


Yellow fingernails often say something about your health. When you first walk into a doctor’s office, he or she will often look first into your eyes, and then look at your hands. What the doctor sees in your eyes, and in your hands, specifically your fingernails, can say a lot about the state of your health. The appearance of your fingernails can sometimes indicate exactly what medical problem you may have, assuming you have one, or the appearance may tell the doctor that you’re basically in sound health.


If your fingernails are discolored or misshapen, it isn’t necessarily a sign of disease. Stress can cause changes in the way nails grow, or how they form, and stress can even influence the color of your nails. Experiencing a severe illness over a long time will often affect the nails, not so much in their appearance, but in their rate of growth. As far as your body is concerned, your fingernails rank rather low in the priority of things requiring attention, and there are actually instances where the body will direct energy towards other places deemed more important, at the expense of the nails, which may even cease growing for a time.


Changes in the color of your fingernails can be due to quite a variety of reasons. People who have nicotine stains on their fingers will often have fingernails that are stained as well, at least on one hand, but often on both. In most instances though, colored fingernails are not a sign of a lifestyle habit, but are more often a sign of disease.


Fungus, Liver, Kidneys, Bronchitis, and More


Yellow fingernails can be a sign of nothing more serious than a fungus, although a fungus can sometimes be difficult to treat. Liver and kidney problems can sometimes cause fingernails to turn yellow, although in these two cases, the yellow color is usually observed only at the tips. It’s rather hard to imagine, but yellow fingernails are often a sign of a respiratory disease, such as chronic bronchitis.


If the fingernails are both yellow and brittle, it can be a sign of a nail fungus, but it can also be the result of aging. When nails do become brittle, they are more susceptible to attacks by a fungus, in which case they may turn yellow, but in some elderly people they become brittle and turn yellow without any fungal infection being present. When a fungus is present, it isn’t the fungus which causes the discoloration, but rather it’s debris that collects under the nail in places where the fungus has eaten a portion of the nail away.


Nutritional Deficiencies Often Play a Role


A lack of certain vitamins and other nutritional elements can also play a role. A vitamin deficiency will sometimes cause nails to turn yellow. While some diseases cause fingernails to turn yellow, it is not always the disease itself that is directly affecting the nails. What can happen is that a disease will sometimes rob the body of certain nutrients, and the deficiency in one or more of these nutrients will in turn result in yellow fingernails. The nutrients in question most often tend to be vitamin A, calcium, and iron. A protein deficiency can also affect the texture or the color of the nails.


Yellow Nail Syndrome


There is also a condition known as yellow nail syndrome that can cause the nails to take on either yellow or a greenish-yellow color. A syndrome, by definition, usually consists of a number of possible causes, and quite often some if not all of those causes are unknown, which can sometimes make treatment difficult. The yellow nail syndrome is fortunately quite rare. There does not appear to be a cure for it, and there is good reason to believe it is a genetic condition, as it has been shown to run in some families. It was mentioned earlier that certain respiratory conditions can cause yellowing in the fingernails. Some of these conditions also appear to be present in cases of the yellow nail syndrome, and include recurrent pneumonia, chronic sinusitis, and recurrent attacks of bronchitis.


The bottom line would seem to be that, unless you are really old, in which case a yellow condition could almost be considered to be normal, yellow fingernails should not be treated lightly. They could in fact serve the same purpose as the canary in the coal mine, that of giving you notice that something may be wrong, and that you may have a condition that is in need of medical attention.


Most of the attention to this point has been directed at the various diseases or disorders that can cause fingernails to change color. Nothing has been said about caring for the nails, partly because many of the causes of color changes come from problems occurring elsewhere in the body. If you do not keep good care of your fingernails however, they could become brittle more easily, or suffer from breaks. By treating your fingernails as you would treat your skin, you should at least be able to prevent the formation of fungus, one of the more common causes of yellow fingernails.