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  • Sheehy Ankle & Foot Center

Exploring the Causes and Cures for Toe Discoloration

Updated: Jun 6

Toe discoloration, though often concerning, is a common condition. Toe discoloration refers to any abnormal change in the color of the toes. This can manifest as a change in skin color, nail color, or both. Discoloration can range from subtle shades to more noticeable alterations.


Ballerina standing on toes

What Causes Toe Discoloration?

Several factors can contribute to toe discoloration:

  • Trauma: Stubbing, crushing, or injuring the toe can cause blood vessels to rupture, leading to bruising and discoloration

  • Fungal Infections: Fungal infections, such as athlete's foot or toenail fungus, can cause the nails to turn yellow, brown, or even black

  • Circulation Issues: Poor blood circulation due to conditions like peripheral artery disease (PAD) can lead to a bluish or purple discoloration, particularly when the feet are elevated

  • Raynaud's Disease: This condition causes blood vessels in the extremities to constrict, resulting in pale or bluish toes, especially in response to cold temperatures

  • Inflammatory Conditions: Conditions like gout or rheumatoid arthritis can cause redness and inflammation

  • Underlying Medical Conditions: Serious conditions like diabetes and vascular diseases can lead to chronic toe discoloration as a result of compromised blood flow and nerve damage

  • Medication Side Effects: Certain medications can cause changes in skin pigmentation as a side effect

Symptoms of Toe Discoloration

Toe discoloration can present in various ways, including:

  • Nail Changes: Yellow, brown, green, or black discoloration of the toenails

  • Skin Color Changes: Redness, bluish or purplish hues, or paleness in the skin

  • Inflammation: Swelling, tenderness, or warmth around the discolored area

  • Pain or Sensitivity: Discomfort or pain when walking, touching, or putting pressure on the affected toe

How is Toe Discoloration Treated?

Treatment of toe discoloration depends on the underlying cause:

  • Trauma: RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is often recommended for bruised toes

  • Fungal Infections: Over-the-counter antifungal creams or prescription medications can help treat toenail fungus

  • Circulation Issues: Managing the underlying condition through lifestyle changes, medications, or procedures can improve blood flow

  • Raynaud's Disease: Keeping feet warm, avoiding cold exposure, and managing stress can help alleviate symptoms

  • Inflammatory Conditions: Treatment plans prescribed by a healthcare professional can help manage inflammation

  • Underlying Medical Conditions: Treating the primary condition can improve blood flow

  • Medication Adjustments: If medication is causing discoloration, a doctor might adjust the dosage or prescribe an alternative

When to Consult a Podiatrist

It's crucial to seek professional care if pain persists, or complications such as open sores, infections and ulcers arise.


If you do not have an underlying medical condition and are unsure about the cause of discoloration, a podiatrist can provide accurate diagnosis and guidance.


Be sure to seek timely medical treatment once you notice a sudden discoloration in your toes. ♦


Podiatrist newsletter article provided by LRW Media. Images provided by Wix Media.


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