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White Toenails

Why do I have white toenails? Your nails, which are made up of a protein called keratin, serve the purpose of protecting certain areas of your hands and toes from severe injuries. A healthy nail should ideally be faint pink in color, due to flow of blood underneath the nail bed. However, you may sometimes see some white spots or discoloration on your nails. This condition (medically called as leukonychia) is more commonly seen in the fingernails than in toenails. Some people believe that white toenails are caused due to deficiency or lack in calcium. However, white toenails may be caused due to other reasons like fungal infections or side effects to some medications.

Symptoms of White Toenails

You may see white spots or bands on your toenails. In some cases, you may notice that your toenail has completely turned white. Sometimes white toenails may be seen along with dark edges of the nails.

What are the Causes of White Toenails?

White toenail in most cases does not indicate any serious medical conditions. It may occur as a result of injury or fungal infection. You may see appearance of white spots on your toenails and in some cases, complete discoloration may be seen. The most common reasons for white toenails are:

Fungal infections

Discoloration of toenails in most cases is caused due to fungal infections. Your toenails are especially open to fungal infections as the moist environment surrounding it is suitable for the growth of fungus. In case of fungal infections, your toenails may start thickening and turn white in color. Wearing tight shoes and sweaty socks makes you more prone to fungal infections.


Yet another common reason for toenails turning white is injury or trauma to the nail. Your toenails are prone to injuries as it has to bear the brunt of your daily activities. You may see a white spot if your toenail is chipped. If you have injured your nail during nail growth, you may see white spots or marks at the site of injury which will move upwards as the nail grows out. Mostly, in cases of injuries you will only see white spots or patches. If your toenails have turned completely white, it is more likely to be due to a fungal infection. However, it is important to bear in mind that injuries may lead to fungal infections.

Chemicals and medicines

Sometimes your toenails may appear white due to the damage caused to them by excessive use of chemicals like nail polish removers and nail polish. They contain solvents such as acetone and toluene which may cause drying out of your toenails, thereby damaging them. Chemicals such as arsenic may also make your toenail turn white due to a toxic reaction. Anti-cancer drugs and chemotherapy may also lead to formation of white bands on your toes.

Liver disease

Though a very rare possibility, toenails turning white may indicate chronic liver disease. You may experience yellowing of skin, vomiting or abdominal pain along with whitening of toenails at later stages of chronic liver disease. If you experience these symptoms, you should visit your doctor immediately.

Terry’s nails

White toenails with dark or red tips are known as Terry’s nails. Terry’s nails may be caused due to diabetes, liver cirrhosis, hyperthyroidism, anaemia or as a side effect of chemotherapy.

Nutritional deficiency

Vitamin or mineral deficiency may lead to appearance of white spots or bands on toenails. Women are mostly prone to this condition due to lack in calcium. Deficiency in zinc, which plays an important role in the immune system, may also lead to appearance of white spots on toenails.

How Can I Treat White Toenails?

  • If your toenails have turned white due to fungal infection, you may use topical antifungal medicine. However, in severe cases, you may have to take a combination of oral antifungal medicines along with the topical ointment. In some cases, you may have to get the infected toenail removed to clear off the fungal infection.
  • If your toenails are turning white due to injury, it is best to take precautions to prevent further damage and allow healthy nail to replace the injured one.
  • If you have white toenails due to liver disease or some other underlying medical condition, you should visit your doctor to treat the disease.
  • Take zinc and calcium supplements if you are suffering from deficiency in these minerals.
  • White toenails due to chemicals and drugs can be reversed once the toxins are removed out of the body. However, do not discontinue the use of any medication even if it causes your toenails to turn white. You should consult your doctor if you think you have white toenails as a side effect of your medication.

Home Remedies

You may try the following home remedies to get rid of the white discoloration on your toenails:

Soak your feet in warm water

You can soak your feet for 15- 20 minutes in warm water containing antibacterial mouthwash, Epsom salt or vinegar. This is particularly useful if your toenails have turned white due to fungal growth. You should then pat your feet dry and apply a topical antifungal ointment.

Apply tea tree oil or orange oil

Tea tree oil is known to have antibacterial activity. It may also help in reducing the white discoloration on your toenails. You can mix a few drops of olive oil with tea tree oil or orange oil and apply in on the affected toenails. Leave it on the toenails for 15-20 minutes and then wipe it off using a clean cotton ball. You should repeat this procedure daily to get the desired benefit. It is advisable to first apply orange oil to a small area on your skin first to make sure that you are not allergic to it.

Baking soda and vinegar treatment

You should first dip your feet in hot water containing Epsom salt or vinegar. Pat your feet dry and apply a mixture of baking soda or hydrogen peroxide, Epsom salt and vinegar on the infected toenails. You should then wrap your toenail with a clean bandage and leave the mixture on your toenails for about 30 minutes. This will help in lightening the spots within 4 weeks.

Keep your nails moisturized

You may rub a vitamin E enriched moisturizer on your toenails to treat the dryness caused due to harsh chemicals. You can use menthol and camphor rich ointments as these compounds have the ability to penetrate the nail and kill the fungus. Various oils like garlic oil or oregano oil are known to have antifungal activities. You may apply these oils on your toenails to get rid of white discoloration due to fungal infections.

You can also apply yogurt/ lemon juice or rub slices of onion on the affected toenails to treat the white discoloration.
Unfortunately, there are no home remedies to cure white toenails occurring due to an underlying medical condition.

How Can I Prevent White Toenails?

You can prevent your toenails from turning white by taking these following precautions:

  • Wear clean, comfortable and breathable socks and shoes
  • Keep your feet clean at all times
  • Keep your toenails short
  • Give your toenails a break from nail polish. Avoid continuous use of nail polish
  • Avoid using nail polish and nail polish removers containing chemicals like acetone. Use nail polish that contains some antifungal agents and vitamins
  • Do not share nail clippers or footwear
  • Do not walk barefoot in public places
  • Do not leave your feet wet for a long period of time
  • Apply moisturizer regularly on your toenails
  • While getting a pedicure done, take due care to avoid damage to the cuticles
  • Eat healthy food which is rich in vitamins and minerals
  • You may try drinking cranberry juice to get the toxins out of your body.


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