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Do You Have Yellow or Green Nails?

By HERWriter
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Our nails are supposed to have a healthy pinkish tinge. Changes in nail color can be a clue that something isn’t quite right. Nails that turn yellow or green can be affected by infection, medical problems or just simple discoloration. Further investigation will help decide what steps you should take to improve the health of not just your nails but possibly your entire body.

Yellow nails may be caused by fungal infections of the nail which is called onychomycosis. Nails may develop white or yellow spots along with thickening, peeling, separation and brittleness around the nail’s edge. Nail fungus infections frequently invade the surrounding skin.

According to medicinenet.com, 50 percent of nail discolorations are the result of fungal infections. Fungus infections are very difficult to get rid of. A dermatologist may need to prescribe a special antifungal medication or even oral medication if the problem is severe.

Green nails are usually caused by a pseudomonas infection. Pseusdomonas is a water-loving bacteria that causes a greenish tinge when it invades not just nails but in any infection in the body such as a respiratory infection. Green nails are treated by keeping them trimmed very short and wearing gloves to keep hands out of excessive amount of water. Soaking the nails in vinegar may help kill the bacteria and antibiotics may need to be given if it doesn’t improve.

Medical problems can be a cause of yellow tinged nails. Liver disease, diabetes, kidney disease, lung disease and thyroid disease can show up as yellow color changes to the nail possibly due to impaired metabolism of glucose and protein.

Yellow nail syndrome is a rare inherited disease that causes swelling of the tissues (lymphedema), lung illnesses and yellow discolored slowing growing nails. Treatment is aimed at improving respiratory symptoms, avoiding lung irritants such as smoking and antibiotics are given as needed.

Smoking can cause yellow/brown discoloration on the nails and fingers that hold the cigarettes. The tar and nicotine in the tobacco actually stains the nails which are porous and absorb the chemical color. Yellow nail tone in smokers can also be due to decreased oxygen levels. No one needs to be told that smoking is unhealthy but nail discoloration should be one more reminder that our hands are showing the signs of a heavier smoking habit.

The least concerning cause of a yellow tinge to one’s nails is staining from frequently worn nail polish. This discoloration is harmless and will go away with time and as the nails grow out.

Seeing a dermatologist to examine yellow or green color changes in your nails will assure you that someone knowledgeable will run further tests if warranted. Observing that your nails have picked up a yellow tinge may be the symptom that leads to treatment of a condition that otherwise has not been picked up before.



Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele can be read at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles

Add a Comment3 Comments

Hey. I hate to admit that I have a habit of eating nails when tensed. I found that the nail of the middle and ring finger of my right hand has become a light green colour towards the inside. These are occasionally swollen. It's been 4-5 months now. They disappear lightly and then reappear. Please help me out.

June 27, 2016 - 11:06am

Hi Anonymous,

Green color to your nail could be an infection or even a bruise under the nail that has changed from the red/blue color to green.

I do not know what would cause you to have orange nails so you might want to contact a dermatologist to take a look. If it is only on one had, perhaps you handled something that stained your nails because a problem that is a total body problem would more typically affect both hands. 

Let us know what you find out.


July 20, 2014 - 3:43pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hi, my middle nail on my right hand has gone green in the middle of it and three of my my fingers on my left hand have gone orange I'm only 21 and have never worn fake nails so can someone please help me with this as I'm very confused- thanks xx

July 20, 2014 - 2:02pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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