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Planning Retirement Online

When your nails aren’t in the pink

May 2012


When your nails aren’t in the pinkAs we age, we get used to our bodies changing and sometimes it is easy to accept that a specific deterioration is caused simply by age.

However, today many problems which in the past would have simply been put down to ageing have now been found to have underlying medical causes.

An example of this is the yellowing of nails. Many people in late middle age and older notice changes in their nails and sometimes the nails lose their natural pink glow and can take on a dull yellow tinge.

This is not a natural event connected with lifespan. Instead, a change in the state of your nails is usually an indication of your general health. A key is to look at your diet and ensure you are getting the right balance of nutrition on a regular basis. A deficiency in iron or zinc can both be indicated in the yellowing nails, but professional nutritional advice can be needed here as it can be dangerous to exceed the recommended levels.

Yellowing nails can also be an indication of an internal health problem. This can include serious problems such as liver and kidney disease or diabetes. Sometimes a blood test is required to identify the actual problem.

Another cause of yellowing nails is a fungal infection. A fungus can embed itself under the actual nail and then produce a yellowing or greenish pigment which colours the nail. If this is the case, then your doctor will probably suggest an anti-fungal medication to clear the problem up. It can be useful to wear protective gloves when undertaking tasks involving dirty water such as dish washing or cleaning the car to help prevent future infections.

Most people notice a yellowing of the nails on their hands, but toenails can also discolour. Yellow toenails are most usually caused by fungal infections and even after treatment they can return. To avoid the risk of catching fungal toenail infections, there are a few precautions you can take:

  • don’t go barefoot in public areas;
  • buy special nonslip shoes for use in a shower if you go to a public gym.
  • wear cotton rather than synthetic socks
  • never share socks, shoes or flipflops
  • always dry feet thoroughly after washing, especially between and around the toes

If you smoked a lot when younger, smoking can cause yellow fingernails and here the only real solution is to whiten the nails. Soaking the nails in fresh lemon juice or baking soda can help and your pharmacist will be able to give you alternative advice.

There is also a very rare problem called yellow nail syndrome. This is when lymphatic system and chest problems occur together leading to thickened yellow or yellow/green nails which grow slowly and can sometimes become separated at the nail bed. A vitamin E ointment and dietary supplements are usually recommended here once the problem has been professionally diagnosed.


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