Stains on the Nails

Stains on the Nails: Cause, Associated Symptoms


Stains on nails are a problem that affects many individuals. In some cases, this “ailment” is harmless, while in others, it may be a sign or symptom of more serious, as-yet-unidentified underlying conditions.
The spots on the nails can have different colors (white, yellow, red, green, brown, purple, etc.) and different shapes, in fact, they can appear as dots, horizontal streaks, vertical lines, etc.
The type and color of the spots on the nails depend on the triggering factor for this chromatic and structural alteration.
In the course of the article, therefore, the main causes and the main types of stains that can appear on the nails will be analysed.


The reasons why spots on the nails may appear are of various nature and, certainly, they strongly undermine the aesthetic aspect.
However, in many cases, the stains on the nails themselves are not the real problem; rather, they are the expression of an underlying problem that very often originates in metabolic (and other) dysfunctions affecting the body.
Frequently, it happens that we do not even notice the presence of some symptoms, which at other times are simply interpreted as “insignificant”: however, we should pay more attention to the messages that the body sends us, being the only way to give advance notice to imminent danger.

Associated Symptoms

Often and willingly, the spots on the nails do not appear as the only manifestation, but are manifested together with a series of other alterations of the structure of these skin appendages.
Among the main symptoms that can occur in association with stains on the nails, we mention:

  • Changes in the color of the nail plate;
  • Decreased shine;
  • Fragility;
  • Tendency to break;
  • Thickening.

All these alterations can express alarm bells sent by the body itself, to be interpreted as an invitation to remedy the disorder. It should be specified that, in this case, “disorder” also includes an incorrect diet , a wrong lifestyle and nutritional deficiencies, in addition to the possible malfunctioning of metabolic activities and fungal infections: all these problems can have repercussions on nails.

Red Spots

Red spots on the nails can be an indication of psoriasis , an inflammation of the skin that is found above all in the vicinity of the joints . Indeed, according to what experts say, 60% of people with psoriasis have red spots on the nail as their first symptom. In the progression of psoriasis, you can also see a loss or crumbling of the nail.
In the event that the red spots appear as small streaks – sometimes even brown in color – the triggering cause could instead lie in a microtrauma with consequent bleeding below the nail itself.

Red spots

Yellow Spots

Nails that are tinged with yellow spots, up to cover the entire surface, can be a sign of various pathologies, such as:

  • Chronic disorders affecting the respiratory system (such as, for example, chronic bronchitis , sinusitis , pleurisy, etc.);
  • Jaundice;
  • HIV infections /AIDS .

In rare cases, swelling in the hands can also cause discoloration on the nails. Also, in yellow nail syndrome , their growth slows down, thickness increases, and they become discolored.
In still other cases, however, the appearance of yellow spots – more or less extensive – could be related to the intake of certain types of medicines, to the contraction of fungal infections or to any food shortages.
Despite what has been said, yellow nails can also appear in the absence of respiratory disorders: the habit of using poor quality nail polish, for example, can aggravate the yellowing of the nail.

White Spots

The appearance of white spots on the nails (a subject detailed in the homonymous article “White Spots on the Nails”) can be a warning of a fungal infection ( onychomycosis , i.e. nail infection generated by fungi), kidney or liver failure, psoriasis or, more simply, to be an indicator of a nutritional deficiency.
Furthermore, in some cases, the white spots on the nails can be caused by microtraumas (leukonychia vera).

Stains on the Nails

Dark Spots

Sometimes, the nails can have dark spots , with a tendency to black: it could be the consequence of a trauma such as a hematoma (in which case the color will disappear in a short time), or a sign of benign moles or melanoma , i.e. cancer of the matrix of the nail.
Malfunctioning adrenal glands , such as occurs in Addison’s disease , may be responsible for the appearance of black-spotted or completely black nails. An Aspergillus niger infection can also lead to a black toenail .
In dermatology, the term melanonychia indicates the presence of melaninin the nail plate, which is characterized by the appearance of a particular brown-brown streak on the nail.

Green Spots

A Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection could cause greenish or black spots: this is why it is called “green nail syndrome”.
In this onychopathy, the microorganism produces enzymes that digest keratin , causing an in-depth effect that also manifests itself on the surface with a typically green colour.

Purple And Blue Spots

Nails that are stained purple or blue forewarn cardiac or respiratory disorders: little oxygen reaches the ends of the hands due to poor blood circulation, consequently the nails appear blue.

Healthy Nails

Having “Healthy, shiny and strong nails” is not only synonymous with beauty, but also with the health of the person: if the diet is incorrect and the rules dictated by good eating habits are not followed, the nails can reflect this condition, tinged with stains more or less intense. In the event that the stains on the nails depend on more serious ailments, it is advisable to consult a specialist.


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