What does it mean if my nails are yellow all over?

A noticeable yellow tint on your nails that’s way more severe than the slightly off color that occurs after wearing a dark polish for a few weeks, along with slow growth and thickening may be a result of a respiratory disease, such as chronic bronchitis.

“Typically, problems show up on nails when health concerns are in a more advanced stage,” Neil Sadick, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, told us. “However, it is possible that they can be a presenting sign that then allows you to treat the underlying health concern.” Keep in mind, even if a disease is treated, your nails may require a year to fully recover since fingernails normally grow about 0.1 millimeter per day.

If you use dark nail polish, you may see staining that makes it seem as if your nail has turned yellow. But yellow nail syndrome (YNS) is a whole other can of worms. YNS causes the nail to become yellow, hard, and thick, and it occurs more often in people with chronic breathing problems such as bronchitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia. Or just tobacco use. People with lymphedema, a condition where lymph doesn’t flow properly causing fluid to build up, AIDS, and rheumatoid arthritis can also have YNS.

It’s thought that the nail turns yellow because it is growing much more slowly than normal. Sometimes the yellowing goes away on its own. You can always try taking 800 international units (IU) of vitamin E daily, or rub vitamin E oil into the nail itself. If this doesn’t do the trick, talk to your doctor.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.