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Causes of having a yellow toenail

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Changes in the usual appearance of the nails can be a sign of some type of problem or condition in the same, so it is necessary to pay attention to them. When the nail of the big toe, instead of looking pink and translucent, has a yellowish tone and, in addition, thickens, stretches or presents other variations, it can be a consequence of some conditions such as fungal infection, nail psoriasis, bumps, misuse of footwear, among others. Keep reading this FastlyHealarticle to find out all the possible causes and find an answer to the question why I have a yellow big toenail. We also show you which treatment should be started in each specific case.

Thickened and yellowish toenail from fungus

Thickening and yellowing of the toenail may be a sign of onychomycosis , which is a fungal infection of the nail . The fungi that usually cause this type of infection are the so-called dermatophytes, which tend to proliferate and affect the health of the nails due to factors such as frequenting humid and warm spaces, keeping the feet damp or wet, wearing shoes or socks that do not favor the perspiration of the skin, suffer excessive sweating in the feet, etc.

When the toenails are affected by the proliferation of fungi, they may present the following signs:

  • Yellow toenails or yellow streaks. This hue may darken as the infection progresses.
  • Thickened, deformed, rough and much more fragile nails.
  • Nail breaks, normally, this happens at the edges at first and can go to the point of separating from the skin.

In addition to the above signs, nail fungus can also cause pain and discomfort in the fingers from pressure and rubbing with shoes and inflammation, redness and itching of the surrounding skin.


If you have a thick yellow toenail from fungus, it is important that you initiate proper treatment before the infection progresses. In this case, topical antifungal medications should be used , which are applied directly to the affected nail several times a week. In the event that the root of the nail has been affected, the specialist may recommend taking antifungal drugs orally.

Yellow and streaked toenails from nail psoriasis

The nail psoriasis or the nails affects about 50% of people who have psoriasis in other areas of the body and 80% of people with psoriatic arthritis . It is a chronic inflammatory skin disease of which the exact causes are unknown, but it has been suggested that it could be related to genetic and environmental factors. Its symptoms can vary considerably from one person to another and when this disease affects the nails, the alterations and injuries that can be observed in these are those that we detail below:

  • Thickening of the nails.
  • Nails that change color, can be yellow, salmon or brown. They may also have white or reddish spots underneath.
  • Lines running through the nails.
  • Appearance of grooves or holes.
  • Greater fragility.
  • Scaly on the edges and sides.
  • Detachment


There is no definitive cure for nail psoriasis, but treatment will be aimed at alleviating the symptoms of the condition and preventing new outbreaks of it. Topical creams and ointments may be prescribed, which usually contain vitamins A or D or corticosteroids. In the event that these drugs do not work, the specialist may indicate taking medications orally or phototherapy.

Thickened yellow toenail from trauma

The blows to the toenails or continuous rubbing with inadequate footwear can also cause the nail of the big toe of the foot is damaged and therefore looks thick and yellowish. Both direct blows to the nail and trauma from the use of a very narrow footwear at the front can cause alterations in the usual appearance of the nails, causing spots or vertical or horizontal lines that are purple, white, yellow, bluish, etc. ., due to small hemorrhages from the blood vessels of the nail bed.


Although in many cases the symptoms disappear with the days, in the case of perceiving pain, inflammation, subungual hematoma or detachment of the nail, it is important to see the doctor. This can perform, if necessary, a drainage of blood from the bruise to relieve discomfort. It may also be indicated to keep the nail protected and use a topical disinfectant to prevent possible infections.

Ingrown toenail

Ingrown toenails are those that do not grow properly and that do so by burying their edges within the skin of the toe. This occurs more frequently in the big toe than in the others and can be the consequence of different factors, such as congenital factors, the use of very narrow shoes, not cutting and grooming the nails in the correct way, trauma in the nail, excessive sweat on the feet, suffering from diabetes or poor blood circulation, etc.

When a nail is ingrown, its edges or ends are introduced into the skin of the toe, which causes symptoms such as inflammation, redness and pain, in addition the nail can thicken and present a yellow color and suppuration of white, yellow or greenish pus in case of advanced infection.


At the first signs of an ingrown toenail, you should go to the podiatrist to solve the problem in a professional and specialized way. In addition, it is important to maximize the hygiene of the area, doing warm salt water baths several times a day and applying a disinfectant solution to the affected nail.

Yellow big toe nail: treatment

Depending on the cause of the yellow big toe nail, the treatment that we have indicated in each case should be carried out. However, it is advisable to always go to the doctor or podiatrist so that a specialist can recommend the treatment and measures to follow. Here are some of the daily cares and habits that should be taken into account to prevent toenail problems and keep them always healthy:

  • Keep toenails short and groom them properly. It is important to cut them straight when they are still a little damp and leave the edges slightly visible to avoid ingrown.
  • Keep your feet dry and avoid being damp or wet for a long time. Dry them well after washing and avoid sitting for long periods of time in sweaty socks or wet feet.
  • Always wear footwear that is wide at the front, that allows the foot to breathe and remains well ventilated.
  • Wear cotton socks and change them frequently.
  • Properly hydrate your feet and nails on a daily basis.
  • Avoid using poor quality enamels.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Why do I have a yellow big toe nail , we recommend that you enter our Skin, Hair and Nails category .

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