Why Do I Suddenly Have Hard & Yellow Cuticles?
The nails are often used as ‘health monitors’ by doctors. If you’re experiencing any abnormalities with fingernails or toenails, there may be an underlying problem. What most people don’t consider is that your nails are a part of your skin.
They are formed by layers and layers of protein, called keratin. Your cuticles are a thin layer of skin that surrounds each nail. If you suddenly have hard, yellow cuticles, you should take it as a sign that you may have a health concern.
Cuticles are designed to protect your nail bed. They fight away fungal infections and bacteria. Think of them as a sort of ‘wall’ between your nails, and harmful substances of any kind. So, when your cuticles become ‘damaged’ in any way, it can weaken the defense of your toenails.
Discoloration of any part of the nail, including your cuticles, should grab your attention. If you notice that your cuticles are hard and yellow in color, it’s likely that they are infected. There are a few different common causes that can trigger this problem. Most issues with the cuticles are treatable, once you know the cause.
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What Causes Hard, Yellow Cuticles?
Again, infection is the biggest proponent for yellow cuticles. But, contracting that infection can happen in a few different ways. Some of the most common causes for hardened, discolored cuticles include:
- Cutting or damaging the cuticle
- Toenail fungus
- Underlying health issues
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Certain nail polishes
Cutting the Cuticle
Infection can easily seep into your cuticle from a cut. Bacteria and fungus are no different. Some people try to ‘get rid of’ or hide their cuticles, especially if you have manicured toes. But, it’s never recommended actually to cut the cuticle in any way. Instead, pushing them back with a wooden stick or the proper nail tool should be the only method of hiding them.
When you cut your cuticle, you’re opening it up to the possibility of the above issues. When that opportunity occurs, your toenail can become involved as well. From there, you have the potential of developing a toenail fungus.
A fungal-infected cut from a cuticle can spread to the toenail. Toenail fungus itself is fairly common. In fact, about 10% of adults will contract it before they reach the age of 40. The good news is that it’s preventable. An existing toenail fungus, however, can also spread to the cuticles, causing the discoloration. This type of fungus tends to grow quickly, and if it’s not taken care of right away, the nail bed turning a yellow color can be a side effect.
Health Conditions & Vitamin Deficiencies
Yellow nails can be a sign of a weakened immune system. That discoloration can easily (and quickly) spread to the cuticles. Kidney failure and liver failure have been linked to yellow nails and cuticles. If you haven’t damaged your cuticles in any way, and don’t suspect you have a fungus, talk to your doctor if you notice any yellowing.
If there isn’t a serious health condition causing the yellow tint, it could be a lack of proper nutrition. Vitamins A, D, and E can strengthen your nails and help to provide your body with the nutrients it needs.
Nail Polishes & Salon Products
Some nail polish has been linked to yellow toenails and cuticles. These products contain different chemicals, and usually, don’t allow your nail itself to ‘breathe.’ That includes the protective skin surrounding the nail. If you regularly get manicures or paint your nails yourself, keep an eye on any discoloration that might occur.
Stop using ‘standard’ polishes. Use a specialist antifungal toenail polish to hide and treat a fungal infection. They come in a range of colors, and they have healing qualities. Here are two of the best options:
Treating Your Cuticles
If you notice a yellowing of the cuticles, there’s a good chance something is affecting your toenails as well. There are plenty of treatment options you can use for both problems. It’s first important to know what’s causing the issue. For bacterial or fungal infections, over-the-counter products can be a great quick fix. If you’re looking for other common solutions, consider the following:
- Antifungal creams
- Topical antibacterial cream
- Daily foot soaks
- Less exposure to water
- Adequate levels of Vitamins A, D, and E
- Proper hygiene
There are also preventative measures you can take in keeping your toenails healthy. The biggest tip, though, is to keep your feet clean and dry. You can do this by making small changes in your everyday life. For example, take showers instead of baths, avoid wearing shoes and socks that don’t breathe, etc. Moisture allows bacteria and fungal infections to grow. Try wearing antifungal socks instead!
Always be conscious of the tools you or a manicurist is using on your feet. They should be completely sanitized. You should also avoid sharp tools around the cuticles and toenail. The sharper the tool, the easier it is for damage to be caused, or for your skin to get cut. Never let a manicurist cut your cuticles as a way of hiding them.
The Toenail & Cuticle Connection
Your toenails and the cuticles surrounding them are, of course, interconnected. If you have a problem with your toenails, you’re like to have a problem with your cuticles, and vice versa. It doesn’t take too much to narrow down the cause of any infection. Most are caused by our own actions or circumstances. Once you know the cause, the treatment options become easier to choose from, too.
If you do suddenly have hard, yellow cuticles, get them treated as soon as possible. As stated above, infection is prone to spreading quickly. Try some of the suggested treatment options here. Or, see a doctor or podiatrist if you feel you may have a more complicated health issue.