What your nails tell you about your health

How often do you think about your fingernails? Maybe you love a manicure and to polish them, or maybe you just give them a quick trim once in a while.

But did you know your fingernails can tell you a lot about your health? Here’s What your nails tell you about your health…

What your nails tell you about your health: image of yellow nails

It is important to pay attention to the colour of your nails. They might be telling you about some underlying health condition that needs immediate medical attention.

Yellow fingernails and toenails can be a major symptom for any number of  serious health concerns that you may not be aware of. Here are some things to consider if you notice any discolouration, and what you can do about it.

Common causes of yellow nails

Fungal infection

Yellow nails can be caused by fungal infection. Given that your hands and feet are constantly exposed, they are susceptible to coming in contact with harmful bacteria. Over time, the fungus festers and the discolouration gradually becomes noticeable. This kind of infection is usually accompanied by an unpleasant odour as well as nail flaking. Unfortunately, this can get progressively worse if not treated immediately.

Go to your doctor as soon as you notice any discolouration, for proper diagnosis and appropriate intervention.


Yellow nails can be attributed to smoking as well. This is because of the harmful chemicals found in the cigarette that have been proven to contribute to nail discolouration. Another motivation to stop smoking?

Constant use of nail colour

Once you deprive your nails of oxygen, yellowish discolouration will often occur, and this is what happens when you keep on using nail polish. To prevent this, you have to pace the use of nail polish. Give your nails time to breathe by having rest periods. Go for at least two weeks to a month of being nail polish free to get the oxygen circulation going.

Serious causes

Here is where it gets a little disconcerting. Yellow nails could be indicative of deeper health problems. But it’s important not to jump to conclusions until you have seen your doctor. Some causes include:

  • A vitamin deficiency (mainly iron or zinc)
  • Damaged airways (bronchiectasis)
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease (may lead to an increase in bilirubin in the blood, which can lead to yellow fingernails)
  • Liver disease (jaundice)
  • Lung disease (lack of oxygen can result in yellow fingernails)
  • Lung infection (tuberculosis)
  • Psoriasis
  • Thyroid disease
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What you can do:

Have it diagnosed by a doctor

It is very important to go see a doctor whenever you notice that your nails have turned yellow as proper diagnosis is the first step towards achieving proper intervention. You cannot achieve full recovery if your condition is not diagnosed correctly.

Know what prescription medicine to take

After diagnosis, the doctor will be able to identify what particular medications can be administered to neutralise a fungal infection, for example, or how to respond to a more serious concern.

Prevention is still better than cure

Since most yellow nails are caused by simpler reasons such as fungal infection or smoking, there is no reason for you to panic. To prevent infection, you should observe proper nail hygiene, washing your hands with soap and keeping your nails clean and well trimmed. Quitting smoking is difficult, but you’ll be gaining a whole host of health benefits on top of avoiding nail discolouration. And remember to avoid polishing your nails too often. 

Organic remedies:

As long as yellow nails are not caused by severe health conditions, there are some organic remedies that you can try to restore the natural color of your nails.

Baking soda

Baking soda is a bleaching agent. It can be used for nails to go from discoloured yellow to their natural colour. You can make a mixture of baking soda, lemon, and tea tree oil for better results.


This can be the organic version of hydrogen peroxide. It can remove yellow stains from your nails over time. You can either soak the affected area with lemon juice for about 10 to 15 minutes or vigorously rub the juice on the nails. You might have to do this time and again for a full week.

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Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is the best organic solution to fungal infection. It is actually an effective fungicide so it sets out to kill the fungus once you apply it on your nails. Another thing that makes it a great home remedy for yellow nails is its antimicrobial properties. This means that not only does it kill the fungus, it also protects your nails from future infection.

A mixture of baking soda, lemon and tea tree oil in lukewarm water is a powerful concoction to fight fungal infection-caused discolouration. Soak affected area in the mixture for not more than 15 minutes then scrub the nails with a soft thistle brush. Rinse with lukewarm water and you are good to go. Repeat about twice a day for an entire week.

What your nails tell you about your health. Having yellow nails can be a health issue but once you have found the underlying cause there are several things that you can do to prevent this from happening again or to restore your nails to their natural state.

Sandy Getzky

About Sandy Getzky

I'm the executive coordinating editor at The Global Nail Fungus Organization, a group committed to helping the 100+ million people suffering from finger and toenail fungus. I am also a registered Herbalist and member of the American Herbalist’s Guild.