Have you ever looked at your toenails and noticed that they just don't look healthy? They used to be clear, but now they look opaque and thickened, and they have a white surface. What can cause toenails to turn white?
Why Toenails Become Discolored
Typically, if you notice white spots on nails, you might think you have a fungal infection of the toenail. This indeed can be the cause of the white appearance. After all, our nails give this infection an easy target.
You see, fungus is an opportunist that lives naturally on our feet and in our shoes. If you experience any toenail trauma, the fungus can get in and cause an infection. And that infection causes your nail to thicken and change or lose color.
Luckily, we can manage fungal toenails in a variety of ways. A topical medication, such as Clarus, is best for mild and moderate toenail infections. An oral medication, such as Lamisil, or new laser treatments, are more suitable for moderate to severe infections. Now, as the fungus resolves, you should see the white spots on toenail go away. (And the rest of the nail surface should clear as well.)
Once you come into the office, your Houston podiatrist will help you decide the best treatment for your fungal toenails. But first, we have to be sure you even have a fungal infection. Because, as it turns out, some other conditions can change the appearance of your nail. In fact, they could even leave you with white spots, or patches of other colors.
White Spots on Toenail: Fungus vs Psoriasis
One other condition that changes the appearance of your toenail could be psoriasis. That's because, with this condition, the tops of your nail can break down. In turn, you may notice little pits along the nail surface.
In some cases, your toenail can become slightly detached from the skin underneath. (This can also happen with a toenail fungus.) With both causes, the nail may look thicker. But with psoriasis, you may notice a thin line of red surrounding a white spot of skin where the nail moved away from the skin.
Sometimes, when you have psoriasis, the spots on your nail could appear red or brown. And here's the interesting part. Those
color changes happen when white blood cells rush to a spot where you've got inflammation. And that's why dark-colored spots on your nail are a symptom of psoriasis. But not of toenail fungus.
Nail fungus symptoms
As I said earlier, white spots on nails is one fungal toenail symptom. But it's not the only one. In most cases, a fungal infection will only affect one of your toenails. (If your symptoms are linked to psoriasis, several nails could be involved.) Other warning signs of a fungal infection include a thick nail. Instead of white spots on the toenail, you could notice a yellow tinge to the affected digit. And you could even develop an odor that wafts off the nail.
Now, fungal infections and psoriasis can both make your nail lift away from your skin. (So can injuries, which we'll talk about in a minute.) But these two triggers are very different.
You see, psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition. It develops when your immune system targets your own skin cells, triggering symptoms all over your skin and nails. (The most common symptoms affect your skin. You'll notice scaly red patches that we call plaques.)
In some cases, you can also develop psoriatic arthritis. (That's an autoimmune disease that, like other types of arthritis, can hurt your feet.) Sadly, we can't cure any form of psoriasis or arthritis. But we can manage your pain and relieve your symptoms.
Luckily, the same isn't true when it comes to fungal toenails. Because, as I said earlier, we have several effective medications and laser treatments that can cure your fungal toenail infection. But, once again, we need to be sure that's what's causing the white spots on your toenail. And rule out other causes, including toenail injuries.
By now, you get that fungus is not the only cause of a discolored toenail. Trauma can also cause your nail to become discolored, deformed, and thickened. In fact, the injury location will determine how it affects the appearance of the toenail.
Here's the deal. If you sustain trauma to the nail itself, you might bleed beneath the toenail. In this case, you may only have temporary discoloration. And that's because the discoloration happens while the nail lifts from its bed. In most cases, it resolves on it's own as the nail grows out.
Even so, I may suggest you use a topical anti fungal medication during this recovery period. That way, I can make sure that the damage to the nail will not allow a fungus infection to occur.
Now, when you injur your nail at the matrix (the group of cells responsible for growing the toenail) the damage can be permanent. This results in a continued thickening of the toenail and persistent white spots on nails. This could mean you had a fungal infection at the beginning of the injury. But even if we use an anti-fungal medication, it may not fully improve your toenail's appearance. In these cases, you will gain better results by using a conditioner for the toenail. That, combined with any necessary fungal treatments, will help improve the toenail's appearance.
Damage from Outside
Toenails also develop a white appearance due to damage from toenail polish and toenail polish remover. Most nail polishes have chemicals, such as formaldehyde and toluene, that dry and damage the toenails. Nail polish remover also has chemicals, such as acetone, that do the same. Using a healthy nail polish and remover, such as Dr.'s Remedy Enriched Nail Polish, that does not contain these chemicals is the best of both worlds. It allows women to wear a stylish polish without damaging their toenails. The polish even has vitamins and natural antifungals to keep the nails even healthier, which is why we carry this brand in our office.
Get Help Resolving Discolored Toenails
Don't let a white, discolored toenail go unchecked. Visit Houston podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider to learn what treatment is best for you. You can also stop by our office just to pick up your Dr's Remedy nail polish.