Have your feet spent the winter wrapped in wool socks, jammed into boots or disguised in a pair of slippers? With spring here and warmer weather sneaking up on us it’s time to start paying attention to our feet and those yellow toenails.
Summer will be here before you know it and so will open-toed shoes, sandals and flip flops.
While our feet have been cocooned all winter, some of us (and the procrastinators know who they are) haven’t had to deal with toenails that are yellow blissfully hidden from sight during the colder months.
All that time under wraps, have our toes been incubating a nail fungus? We all know the stigma attached to unattractive, unhealthy nails and now it’s time to face them head on.
Yellow Toenails when Nail Fungus is Involved
At times you may feel like you’re alone and the only one who’s got it, but you’re not! Toenail fungus is a common problem, affecting almost 30 million Americans and yellow toenails are the most search topic on this website.
Your toenails are actually planes of hard, tightly packed epidermis cells, the same cells that make up your skin.
These visible nail cells are considered dead, and yet they’re filled with a protein called keratin. Keratin is the same type of protein that makes up our hair.
Each of our toenails (or fingernails) actually consists of several distinct parts, listed below, and all of which play an important role in its health and growth:
- Nail plate: The visible part of the nail.
- Nail bed: Just below the nail plate and attached to it. The capillaries in the nail bed feed the nail and give it that healthy pink color.
- Nail matrix: It sits below the cuticle at the base of your nail. Cells in the matrix are the producer of your toenails. If the matrix gets damaged or infected, your nail will be distorted or may even stop growing completely.
- Lunula: Part of the matrix that’s visible as a half-moon shape at the base of your nail.
- Cuticle: This wraps the skin around your nail (also made of dead cells) and keeps foreign substances, such as infection-causing bacteria, out.
- Nail fold: This is the ridge of skin around the nail.
Where Your Nail Fungus Starts
When you have a nail fungus that discolors your toenails it’s because the protective components of your toenail makeup has been compromised or damaged.
Most people who have the infection notice its start on the outer ends of the toenail. The nail starts to thicken in the early stages of development.
As the fungus starts to eat away at the nail, it leaves a brown-to-yellow debris on the lower surface of the nail, which, in some instances, lifts the toenail from its nail bed.
The entire nail could be lost depending on the severity. With a nail fungus, the toenails appear dull, yellow, and opaque and can even be a chalky-white. The nail discoloration is what obscures the pink skin beneath. Your yellow toenails can become brittle, flaky and crumbly if left untreated.
Toenail fungus cannot be cured without treatment
Toenail fungus is also known as Onychomycosis and never goes away on its own. Resolving or curing a nail fungus can be handled through a topical treatment for yellow toenails which kills the fungus or through an oral medication prescribed by your doctor.
Side effects of oral drugs (Fluconazole, griseofulvin, terbinafine, and itraconazole) used in treatment, may include headaches, rash, nausea, vomiting or stomach upset, reversible liver damage or blood disorders. And in the case of itraconazole, the possibility of congestive heart failure. As with any oral medication, it is important to consult with your physician before taking anything, particularly if it is in addition to any other medications you may be taking.
Regardless of which option you choose, understand that the exposed yellow toenails themselves are permanently damaged until they grows out. The full growth cycle for a new toenail can be anywhere from 6 months to 9 months depending on the severity of your infection.
Surprisingly, sex does matter because men’s toenails grow faster than women’s.