Causes, Symptoms & Treatment for Brown Toe and Finger Nails

What are Brown Toe and Finger Nails?

Fingernails can also be an important indicator of a person’s health. Normally the nails are somewhat white to light brown in color with a pink to red tinge due to the underlying blood flow. If the fingernails are overtly discolored then it may be a sign of a finger and toenail problems or an underlying systemic disease. A brownish discoloration is one such abnormality which is referred to as melanonychia.


Structure of the nail

Nails are made from a protein called keratin. The structures of the nail include:

  • Nail matrix: where nail growth occurs, tucked under the skin behind the nail
  • Nail plate: the visible part of the nail
  • Nail bed: the nail plate sits on top of the nail bed. The nail plate looks pink because of the blood-rich capillaries in the nail bed
  • Lunula: the crescent-moon shape that you can sometimes see at the base of the nail plate
  • Nail folds: the slender skin grooves that hold the nail plate in place
  • Cuticle:the flap of thin tissue over the base of the nail plate.
Brown Toe and Finger Nails

Brown Toe and Finger Nails


What Cause Brown Toe and Finger Nails

Brown discoloration of the nails can occur due to external factors:

  • frequent use of nail varnish
  • Nicotine from cigarette smoking
  • Paint, ink or dye contact
  • Excess use of nail polish remover
  • Heat damage to the fingers
  • Certain nail polish/varnish
  • Mechanical trauma to the nails including nail biting
  • Radiation exposure
  • Sunlight
  • Exposure of Arsenic, Iodine, Fluoride, Mercury, Thallium

Skin and nail diseases that may be responsible for the brown discoloration:

  • Fungal nail infection: Onychomycosis is the condition that causes brown colored fingernails as the after effects of fungal infection of the tissue beneath the nail and on the nail itself.

what causes toenail fungus :

– dermatophytes (a certain group of fungi)

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– other fungi such as yeast

  • Half white and half brown nails can also occur in those who are undergoing chemotherapy
  • skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis
  • Onychogryphosis (Ram’s Horn Nails): a nail disease that causes one side of the nail to grow faster than the other. Usually the nail color turns yellow or brown.
  • lymphedema (swelling of tissues due to the accumulation of fluid)
  • lung diseases
  • chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or HIV
  • Lichen planus: skin rash triggered by the immune system
  • Nevi: vague and ambiguous term for benign tumor-like malformations that can affect any area of the body
  • Scleroderma
  • Hormone Disorders :

– Addison disease,
– Cushing syndrome,
– hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
– diabetes mellitus

Other Causes

  • circulatory problem that decreases blood flow to the toes
  • Darier disease: genetic disorder typically marked by yellow-colored blemishes on the body.
  • Acrodermatitisenteropathica:
  • Yellow nail syndrome: This rare condition has been known to cause slow-growing, thickened, yellow nails.
  • Alopecia areata. This immune system disorder causes hair loss in round patches and can also affect nails, which may become rough or pitted. People with alopecia areata will often see nail color changes before they start seeing hair loss.
  • Cardiovascular diseases like infective endocarditis
  • Hemosiderosis
  • Hyperbilirubinemia (high bilirubin levels evident as jaundice
  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
  • Porphyria
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • pregnancy
  • malnutrition
  • Some medications, including antibiotics, anti-malarial medications, and some medications used in chemotherapy, Corticosteroids, Gold salts, Phenythoin, Psoralens, Certain tricyclic, antidepressants like clomipramine.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Zinc deficiency


Brown Toe and Finger Nails Infection Symptom

  1. can break easily
  2. white dot shows up on the nail and then gets bigger
  3. foul odor from the nail
  4. Onycholysis (Separation of the nail from the nail bed)
  5. Thickened nail
  6. Brittle, crumbly or ragged



  • lab tests consist of microscopy to visualize fungal elements
  • mycological culture to help identify the species of microbes
  • Accumulation of samples of skin debris closest to the infected area
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Who gets Brown Toe and Finger Nails easily?

  • People with diabetes,
  • athlete’s foot
  • People with weak immune system
  • Smoker
  • Aging and slower growing nails
  • Sweating heavily
  • Walking barefoot in damp communal areas
  • Having a minor skin condition such as psoriasis
  • Having diabetes
  • circulation problems


Indicate what?

Nails may look a particular way for another reason totally unrelated to health, but could be due to mechanical or environmental influences. If healthy fingernails begin to change color or textureespecially if there any other issues like a change in shape or thickness or any bleeding, discharge, pain, or swelling then you should see doctor immediately. This discoloration indicates some health sign:

  • Can be indicative of problems with the lymphatic system
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Diabetes or liver problems
  • Nicotine from cigarette smoking
  • Yellow discoloration in your fingernails can also result from a respiratory condition, such as chronic bronchitis, or from swelling of your hands (lymphedema).
  • Splinter hemorrhage shows up as red or brown lines along the long axis of the nail and may be caused by endocarditis (an inflammation of the heart membranes) or trichinosis (a parasitic infection from undercooked pork).
  • Pitted brown spots in fingernails may indicate a skin and joint disorder called psoriasis.
  • Reddish-brown spots can indicate a deficiency of folic acid, protein or vitamin C.


Medicated Brown toe and Finger Nails Treatment

  • Fungus Infection Toe and Finger Nails treatment: toenail fungus treatment depends on which fungus you have and how bad the infection is. Toenail Fungus Medication include:
    • A topical cream that goes directly on the nail
    • A topical nail lacquer
    • An antifungal prescription pill
    • Removing the damaged area of the nail or skin
    • Removing entire nails by surgery
  • Oral antifungal medications:
    • Terbinafine (or Lamisil)
    • Itraconazole (or Sporanox)
  • Carbon-dioxide laser therapy combined with antifungal nail cream
  • Removing infected nail as possible. This can be done by:
    • Trimming the nail with clippers
    • Filing it down
    • Dissolving it away with a paste that contains urea and bifonazole
  • Phototherapy: The final cure method for psoriasis ofthe nails called phototherapy. Phototherapy usesultraviolet lightsto treat psoriasis.
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Surgery, is it necessary?

Surgery needed if other treatments don’t work and doctor may want to remove the infected nail if it causes lot of pain. In some cases, surgery may be combined with topical therapy to prevent the infection from recurring.


How to Avoid Brown Toe and Finger Nails

How to Avoid Brown Toe and Finger Nails

How to Avoid Brown Toe and Finger Nails

  • Use soap and water to wash your feet
  • Keep toe and finger Nail dry after cleansing
  • Trim your toenails straight across rather than curved at the edges
  • Wash clippers with soap and water
  • Change socks regularly
  • Wear shower shoes in wet public places
  • Choose shoes made of materials that breathe
  • Stop using nail polish and artificial nails.
  • Prevent Polish Stains With A Base Coat before using nail polish
  • Disinfect manicure and pedicure tools with alcohol before use them
  • Avoid injuring your nails and fingertips.
  • Don’t bite or pick your nails
  • Wear gloves when working with water or harsh chemicals
  • Treat any sign of eczema on your hands promptly.
  • To protect yourself from fungal infections, don’t share towels
  • Don’t clean under your nails too often or too aggressively


Do You Need a Doctor?

See your doctor if:

  • There are unexplained changes in the nail color
  • Nails appear to be abnormally thick.
  • The area surrounding the nails is painful or tender.
  • Swelling on the skin surrounding the nail.
  • Nail appears to have separated from the nail bed.
  • You have a fever or chills.

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