What Are the Most Common Causes of White Toenails?

Trauma to the toe may cause white toenails.
White spots may be a reaction to nail polish or polish remover.
White toenails that are also painful or difficult to maintain may need to be checked out by a podiatrist.
Improper pedicure techniques can cause white toenails.
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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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White toenails are a relatively common problem and can have a variety of causes. Fungal infections are perhaps the most common cause of this discoloration, although physical trauma or the use of certain chemicals can also contribute to their development. Kidney failure, liver dysfunction, and chemotherapy have also been known to turn the toenails partially or completely white.

Onychomycosis is a medical term used to describe a fungal infection that affects the nails. When white toenails are a result of this type of infection, the discoloration normally appears as streaks across the nail, especially on the sides. Additional symptoms of onychomycosis may include thickening or crumbling of the affected nail or a loosening of the toenail from the surrounding skin.

Physical trauma is another common cause for the appearance of white toenails. Trauma to the nail may occur as a result of accidental injury, such as dropping something on the affected toe, or the use of improper pedicure techniques. Damage to the toenails also increases the chances of developing a fungal infection. In some cases, chemicals present in cosmetics like nail polish or nail polish remover can also lead to nail discoloration.

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Kidney failure, liver dysfunction, and some hereditary illnesses can cause white toenails in some people. If there has been no physical injury and no fungal infection is present, the supervising physician will often order a series of blood tests to check the functioning of the vital organs of the body. Depending on the situation, the nails may regain their natural coloration after the originating medical condition has been successfully treated. In severe cases, dialysis or organ transplantation may be required in order to return the body to a healthy state.

Some medications have been shown to cause white toenails, especially chemotherapy drugs that are used to treat serious medical conditions such as cancer. Certain antibiotics, particularly those belonging to a class of drugs known as sulphonamides, list the development of white nails on the fingers or toes as a possible side effect. The only way to know for sure what is causing specific instances of white toenails is to consult a doctor so that the proper tests can be ordered and the most appropriate treatment options can be discussed.

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Discuss this Article

anon963620
Post 4

My toenails, especially the big toenails, are nearly white. This is due to poor circulation as I have heart disease.

burcinc
Post 3

White nails or toenails point towards a problem with the internal organs. Sometimes it's just a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Other times, it's a serious problem with the liver, heart, kidneys or pancreas.

I developed Terry's nails a little before I was diagnosed with diabetes. When I showed my doctor my white nails and toenails, he said that I need a thorough check up. Thankfully, my liver and kidney function results came back normal. But my blood sugar reading was too high.

I don't think that white toenails should be taken lightly. It's a good idea to get a check-up just in case.

candyquilt
Post 2

@literally45-- It might be. Does it look like the spot is growing?

Toenail fungus usually starts off as a spot and will slowly grow and take over the nail. So you need to keep an eye on it. It might take weeks to notice changes, but if it looks like the spot is getting bigger, you need fungus treatment.

If the spot is not growing, then it's probably a result of a minor physical trauma. If you don't have any other symptoms, don't worry about it. It will go away on its own.

literally45
Post 1

My big toenail on my right foot has a white spot on it. I took notice of it just yesterday. I have no idea how it happened. Could it be fungus?

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