It’s one thing when you change your toenail colour at the nail salon, but if your toenails naturally change colour, it could indicate a problem brewing behind the nail bed.
A healthy toenail is usually clear and partially translucent (i.e.: the colour of your skin tone – more or less). This can change to black, yellow, brown, green or blue, depending on what precisely is going on. If you have a discoloured toenail (also known as “chromonychia”), you can see a foot specialist at our clinic to find out the underlying cause and get the appropriate treatment.
There are many other ways toenail discolouration may present itself, and sometimes the changes may be ambiguous or not immediately obvious. A discoloured toenail may be:
This list is not exhaustive.
If you notice any changes to the colour, pattern, thickness, shape, texture or consistency of your toenails, it is best to see a chiropodist or foot specialist for guidance.
The precise colour of a discoloured toenail is a barometer for what is going on behind the nail. The following is our “colour guide” to discoloured toenails and their causes:
Red/Black/Purple Toenail: In most cases a black toenail is caused by trauma to the toenail. It may start out as a reddish-purple colour and then gradually change to black. This can be due to major trauma, such as dropping something on your toe, or repetitive minor traumas, such as exercising in shoes that are too small. The black colour typically comes from bruising or blood beneath the nail.
Yellow/Brown Toenail: Toenail fungus (also called “onychomycosis”) is the primary cause of yellowing toenails. Fungus is also one of the most common causes of toenail discolouration.
Thicker nails can also make your toenails yellow due to the disruption of light passage through the nail.
Green Toenail: Green nail syndrome (GNS) is a toenail infection caused by bacteria (as opposed to fungus). A bacterial infection is usually confined to a single toenail and often follows some sort of trauma that left an opening in the nailbed, through which bacteria entered.
Blue Toenail: If you notice a small circular blue mole behind your toenail, it may be something called a blue nevus. A blue nevus is usually benign and not a cause for concern; however, in very rare cases, it can become cancerous. If you notice such a discolouration behind your nail, it is best to seek medical attention just to be safe.
Yellow-Brown Spots: This can indicate an auto-immune skin-related disease called psoriasis.
White on the bottom half; Pink on the top: This can indicate kidney problems.
White: This can indicate liver problems.
These are just some of the many variations of toenail discolouration. For more information about the many forms of toenail discolouration, and their causes, you can check out this guide: https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/ss/slideshow-toenail-color-causes
Treatment for toenail discolouration will vary depending on what is causing it.
To find out what’s causing your discoloured toenail and how to treat it, you can schedule an assessment with one of our foot specialists (chiropodists) through the booking form at the bottom of this page. Or, you can contact us at 604-769-3338 (FEET) to book an appointment at our foot clinic. We are open Mondays to Fridays from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and Saturdays from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Risk factors for green toenails due to infection include:
Risk factors for yellow toenails include:
Risk factors for black/purple toenails due to bruising include:
If you need assistance choosing athletic shoes, our staff can assist you in selecting footwear that fits correctly. Drop-in shoe fittings are offered during clinic hours Monday-Saturday and is a complimentary service. No appointment required.
Here are several things you can do to prevent toenail discoloration:
Our clinic store is open six days a week and offers a variety of nail and foot care products.
A chiropodist at your clinic can also give you a medical pedicure. A medical pedicure done by a foot specialist feels just as nice as a cosmetic pedicure, while also giving you the chance to get your toes and feet tended to by a licensed foot specialist. A licensed foot specialist can recognize and tend to any potential issues that may cause toenail discolouration in the future.