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What causes yellow nails?

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Quick Answer

Yellow nails often indicate a fungal infection, according to EverydayHealth. Other causes of yellow nails include injury, skin conditions, smoking cigarettes and using red nail polish, as reported by WebMD. Medical conditions such as chronic lung disease and cancer can also cause yellow nails.

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Full Answer

Yellow nails that break or crumble easily and emit a foul odor suggest a fungal infection, known as onychomycosis, according to EverydayHealth. People typically pick up fungal infections walking barefoot in warm, moist environments, such as public pools and locker rooms. Doctors typically prescribe anti-fungal cream or oral anti-fungal medication to treat onychomycosis. Frequent fungal infections can be a sign of an underlying health problem, such as diabetes, a circulatory problem or a condition that weakens the immune system. Keeping hands and feet clean and dry and always wearing shoes or sandals in public places helps to prevent fungal infections.

Yellow nails sometimes occur when a traumatic injury causes a nail to separate from the nail bed, as stated by WebMD. Certain skin conditions can also cause this separation. Smoking cigarettes or using red nail polish can stain nails, causing them to appear yellow. Additionally, people suffering from cancer or chronic lung disease sometimes develop yellow nails.

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