Causes of Discolored Toenails

You’re probably pretty familiar with what your healthy toenails look like. What does it mean, though if your toenails seem off-color to you? Dr. Craig B. Frey and Dr. Megan L. Oltmann, the podiatrists at Foot & Ankle Associates of Cleveland offer these insights – a rainbow of reasons for discolored toenails and what to do about them:


Color: Black, Purplish-Black, or Maroon

Likely Causes: In most cases, a nail that turns black, purple-black, or very dark red does so because it’s been injured – slammed in a car door or an unfortunate victim of a heavy, falling object. The injury causes blood to pool under the nail, causing the discoloration. Nail fungus, and poorly-fitting shoes that constantly rub against your toenails can also cause them to turn black.

Possible Cause: In very rare cases, a black mark under the nail can mean a malignancy (cancer).

What to do: One treatment option is to relieve the pressure on your nail by draining the blood that’s pooled beneath it. If you are in a lot pain, it’s possible that the trauma to your nail may have damaged a bone as well, so have Dr. Frey or Dr. Oltmann check it out at our office in Solon, Ohio.


Color: White

Likely Causes: Trauma to the nail can cause a white spot if there’s no bleeding involved. White spots can also be due to fungus.

Possible Cause: Proteins can deposit in the nail bed due to an illness originating somewhere else in the body.

What to do: White spots due to an injury will just grow along with the nail, until it’s gone, so no action is necessary. But if they don’t go away, call our podiatrists for an examination.


Color: Yellow

Likely Cause: Fungal infection. Infected nails not only turn yellow, but they become thick and tend to split, crack, or crumble.

Possible Causes: Thyroid disease, lung disease, psoriasis, or diabetes.

What to do: Home remedies such as careful trimming or application of over-the-counter creams are available, but if the fungus is persistent, make an appointment with us for professional treatment options.

Whenever you have questions about the color of your toenails, or if you have any pain or discomfort, visit the podiatry experts in Cuyahoga County at Foot & Ankle Associates of Cleveland. We know that your time is precious, and so we offer early, late, and Saturday appointments for your convenience. Contact our staff online, or call us at (440) 903-1041.