Yellow Nail Syndrome

Description, Causes and Risk Factors: ICD-10: L60.5 Abbreviation: YNS.yellow nails syndrome

The yellow nail syndrome consists of the triad of deformed yellow nails, lymphedema and pleural effusion. It is associated with peripheral lymphedema and exudative pleural effusions, and less commonly with bronchiectasis, sinusitis and lymphoedema at non-peripheral sites.

Condition seen mostly in adults, however, some cases have been reported in children affects both the fingernails and toenails.

Lymphatic obstruction due to anatomical abnormality is commonly assumed to be the cause. But sometimes nails may take a yellowish teint which is not the result of behavior. Fingernails that are yellow can be an indication of a medical disorder in some cases. These include liver disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and nutritional deficiencies, most notably iron and zinc. Although most cases of yellow nails are not caused by an internal disorder, underlying medical problems should be ruled out if your nails have suddenly changed in color.

Symptoms: All nails are affected and there is no skin involvement.
  • Nail changes often precede pulmonary abnormalities - the nail changes have been reported as a paraneoplastic process in various types of carcinomas.
  • Majority of patients complain that their nails do not grow.
  • Loss of the nail cuticle - results in an increase in paronychia.
  • If condition persists then onycholysis is seen.

Yellow nail syndrome is far more common in toenails than in the fingernails. The patients suffering from YNS shows upper and lower respiratory tract infections that are believed to be caused by some antibody deficiency that occurs after the symptoms of YNS manifest.

The diagnosis is made clinically, once other causes have been excluded.
  • Be aware that the different clinical features of the syndrome may occur at wide intervals.
  • The absence of nail changes does not exclude the diagnosis, if other causes of pleural effusions and lymphedema have been excluded.

Unfortunately, the treatment of yellow nail syndrome is not that much effective and patients may benefit from vitamin E and cough suppressants. They are told to avoid smoking and other respiratory irritants.

Treatment could also consist of physical therapy like clapping or vibration and postural drainage. Oral antibiotics, vitamin A and E, Zinc sulfate, itraconazole and nutritional supplements could also be prescribed.

The best news is that yellow nail syndrome sees about thirty percent spontaneous healing. And you can defend yourself pretty well by proper foot hygiene. Try to wear shoes which have some space at the front, preferably about the width of your thumb. That would prevent your toes from getting damaged. It is advisable to walk barefoot whenever it is possible if you are under medical treatment more so after applying antimicrobial solutions.

You should use cream treatments and liquids topically. Always remember to wear clean socks and also to rotate shoes more frequently. Your doctor would most probably prescribe oral medications or natural remedies to take care of any side effects. And you can always hide it with nail polish.

And yes, one more thing. Slowing down of growth of nails, cause its discoloration. And this slowing down of growth could be of various other reasons. The best thing to do is to consult a physician if you find something like this happening.

NOTE: The above information is for educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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