ZocdocAnswersWhat causes discoloration and itching of nails?

Question

What causes discoloration and itching of nails?

What could make a person's fingernails become discolored and itchy? My nails took on a sort of brownish yellowish tint a while back and they itch around the base - but it hasn't spread or gotten worse for the last few months. Do I have to see a doctor about this?

Answer

Problems with the nails are one of the most common medical problems and people often seek medical advice for them. The doctors who will be well qualified to discuss this issue with you in greater detail include your primary care doctor or your dermatologist. The most likely cause of discoloration and itching of the nails is a fungal infection. The fungi that cause nail infections thrive in moist environments and the soil and they are very commonly picked up in nails and can be quite contagious. They cause gradual distortion and thickening and discoloration of the nails, along with itching and sometimes odor. The mainstay of treatment includes good hygiene and avoiding contact between the infected areas and other nails or skin surfaces. At the same time, most fungal infections of the nails do require prescription oral medications, since antifungal creams do not work very well on nail infections. Other possibilities would include an infection of the skin around the nail, which may appear red and inflamed and could be either fungal or bacterial in nature. As always the diagnosis and the management of your particular concerns will require a physical examination by your personal physician. Setting up an office visit with your primary care doctor or your dermatologist is advised.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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