Thick yellow toenails are usually caused by a fungal infection called onychomycosis. This can be irritating or painful. It’s less common, but the infection can affect your fingernails as well.
Thick yellow toenails can be prevented by taking certain precautions. If you have thick yellow toenails, you may be able to treat the infection at home.
Nail fungus causes your toenail to become whitish or yellow-brown. Over time, debris builds up beneath the nail, causing it to darken. Nails can grow brittle, crumbly, or ragged.
Toenails are an ideal environment for fungal infections because they are moist and warm. A fungal infection can also cause your toenails to thicken or become distorted. The fungus can cause unpleasant odors. These infections can spread easily and develop fast.
Preventive measures keep you from getting a fungal infection or reinfection. Home remedies and medical treatments help stop fungal growth and let healthy nails grow back.
You’re more likely to contract a fungal foot infection if you:
- Already have athlete's foot
- Are exposed to wet areas often
- Have a weak immune system
- Have diabetes type 1 / 2, circulatory problems, or psoriasis (a skin condition)
Repeated trauma or injury can also make you more likely to get a fungal infection that leads to thick yellow toenails. This usually happens to athletes that exercise frequently. However, it can also happen when people wear shoes that don’t fit properly or someone stubs their toe badly.
Remedies and Treatments for Thick Yellow Toenails
It’s common for yeasts, molds, and other fungi can enter toenails and cause infection. It’s important to practice habits that prevent toenail infection and reinfection.
The following measures can help you prevent thick yellow toenails caused by infection:
- Wear sweat-absorbing socks to prevent fungi from forming in the fabric.
- Wear shoes in pool areas and locker rooms where you could come in contact with nail fungus.
- Shoes offer a dark, moist environment that helps fungi grow. Treat old shoes with antifungal powders or disinfectants.
- Wash your hands and feet regularly. Fungal infections are more common in toenails since your feet are in warm, moist environments more often.
- Trim your toenails and smooth the edges with a file. This will make it easier for topical treatments (like creams or gels) to reach deeper layers of the nail.
Topical treatments administer antifungal agents on your toenails to stop fungal growth. A healthy toenail can then grow back. It takes time for thick yellow toenail treatments to work. You may not see results for months.
- Baking soda has strong antifungal effects. Soaking your thick yellow toenails in baking soda and water can combat fungal infections.
- Applying 100% tea tree oil to affected toenails twice daily can help ease symptoms.
- Olive leaf extract has both antibacterial and antifungal effects. Applying it in liquid form on infected toenails multiple times a day can combat a fungal infection.
- Coconut oil is an antifungal agent. Applying a small amount of melted coconut oil can help heal thick yellow toenails.
- You can purchase over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal nail creams and ointments. Be sure to clip and clean your nails before use to make sure the creams reach deeper layers.
- Laser therapy can be used to treat a fungal toenail infection.
- If your toenails do not respond well to OTC treatment, your doctor may prescribe a medicated nail cream. To make sure the cream penetrates the hard surface of your nail, you or your doctor may need to thin it with a file.
When to See a Doctor
People with mild symptoms of fungal infection may treat their toenails at home. But infections can lead to more serious problems, such as foot ulcers, in people with diabetes. Poor blood flow can keep infections from healing.
If your toenails continue becoming discolored, thicker, or deformed despite treatments, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. Make an appointment with your doctor if you have diabetes, as toenail fungus can lead to more serious infections and diabetic foot problems. It’s possible that your thick yellow toenails are caused by conditions such as psoriasis, a skin disease.
Doctors can better diagnose the cause of your thick yellow toenails by collecting and analyzing nail clippings. They can then prescribe a treatment plan. Treatments may include prescription medicines you can take by mouth or removal of the damaged nail.