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If your toenails are yellow, crumbling and cracked, don't put on socks and ignore the problem. Yellow toenails may be a sign of toenail fungus, which may eventually lead to the breakdown of the entire nail if it is left untreated. Consult a doctor before using home remedies or over-the-counter treatments to treat your condition.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
The most common cause of yellow and brittle or cracked toenails is nail fungus, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons in the article "Yellow Toenails." Yellow nails may also be caused by lymphedema, a buildup of fluid in the legs, or diabetes mellitus. Consult your doctor if your toenail discoloration is caused by an underlying condition. Nails may also be stained yellow from wearing colored nail polish. As the nail grows out, it will return to its normal color, notes the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.
Toenail fungus may be caused by going barefoot in public areas, like swimming pools, public showers and gym locker rooms, according to MayoClinic.com in the article "Nail Fungus." Toenail fungus may also occur if you do not dry your feet off completely after showering. Wearing the same pair of shoes over and over may also cause toenail fungus, because the fungus may grow in the warm, moist shoe. The toenail fungus may begin as a small yellow or white dot on the nail and may slowly spread to the rest of rest of the nail if it is not treated.
Home remedies may not always be effective in treating nail fungus, notes MayoClinic.com. They may be worth a try, however. Soak your feet for 20 minutes in one part vinegar and two parts water, then rinse your feet and pat them with a towel until they are completely dry. Repeat every day until the fungus is gone. Another home remedy that may eliminate nail fungus involves applying a small amount of over-the-counter vapor rub to the nail. Consult your doctor before trying this remedy because there is no determination as to how often the vapor rub should be applied in order to reduce nail fungus.
Over-the-Counter Prescription Remedies
If home remedies are not effective, over-the-counter or prescription treatments may help. Purchase over-the-counter medications, like antifungal lacquer at the drugstore or grocery store. Your doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic like itraconazole or terbinafine or may prescribe an antifungal lacquer like ciclopirox. In severe cases, your doctor may remove the entire toenail.
To prevent nail fungus, keep nails trimmed short. Dry feet completely after showering or bathing. Spray your feet and the inside of your shoes with antifungal spray to prevent fungus from growing. Wear flip-flops or shoes in public locker rooms, showers, gyms and pools, recommends MayoClinic.com.
- "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies"; Deborah Tkac; 1990
- American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons: Yellow Toenails
- ICHIRO/Photodisc/Getty Images