White Buildup under Toenails


White Buildup under Toenails


We ignore our toenails until or unless we need to wear an open footwear or think of getting a pedicure before a party. But it is important that we keep our toenails in proper shape and healthy condition. If proper care is not taken, you can observe thick skin under the toenails. Changes in the underneath skin is basically an indication of fungal infection. Sometimes we even ignore this condition which can be painful and further lead to the destruction of nails. So today we are sharing some information about toenail fungus and how to treat white buildup under toenails.

Thick nails can be due to fungal attack or various other causes, and if one is aware of it they can work to treat it effectively. So let us know about the symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention tips for toenail infection.

What are Thick Toenails?

Fingernails and toenails are strong barriers that protect our delicate skin from the surrounding environment. And with age our nails either become brittle or thick, a condition known as onychomycosis. White onychomycosis, is a superficial fungal infection in which small, white patches of fungus build up over and under the toenails. Also the skin along the edges and underneath the nails thicken. This also produces a foul odor which becomes prominent while you go for a pedicure or grooming session or file your nails.

If you do not take proper care of infected nails, then it can become painful. So it is important that you do prompt treatment, which include both topical and medical treatment.

What Causes White Buildup under Toenails?

Yeast and Fungal Infection

As yeast and fungal attacks are quite common, nearly 20 percent of adult, both men and woman suffer from onychomycosis. The fungus or yeast can attack at the-

  • junction of the nail bed and the toenail
  • a crack in the toenail
  • in a cut in the skin in contact with the toenail

The fungus requires a moist environment to proliferate and so it grows underneath the toenails. Initially it is minor in state, but with time the infection grows and the nails starts to thicken and leads to the production of other symptoms.

As moisture helps in spreading the fungus, your toenails are more susceptible to such infections. Here are some other factors that help in increasing the risk of developing the condition.

  • Wearing tight- hosiery or tight fitting shoes.
  • Wearing layers of nail polish. This doesn’t let the nail to breathe.
  • Practicing poor foot hygiene.
  • Chronic illnesses, such as HIV or diabetes can also cause toenail fungus.
  • Being an athlete, military personnel or miner. As the toenail fungi can spread from foot to foot through the floors of locker rooms and showers, this condition is common in these people.
  • Having circulatory problems decreases blood flow to the toes, thus increasing the risk of attack by a fungus.


Thickening of toenails also happen due to sudden or repeated injury or trauma. This is an important cause for people who are involved in sports or exercise, like athletes, soccer players, runners or dancers. And of you are using ill-fitted shoes then also you can experience thickening of skin under your toenails.

A lot of time one mistakes thick nails caused by injury for fungal attack. And so if you are involved in physical work, then do not worry of a fungal infection as it may be due to unattended injury.

Yellow nail syndrome

A very rare cause of yellow, stained and thick nails is the yellow nail syndrome. This affects both fingernails and toenails. During this condition the nails turn yellow, as the name suggests and becomes thickened and curved. The patient suffering from the yellow nail syndrome also experience problems during breathing, with swelling in legs and arms, and fluid buildup in the limbs and around the lungs.

According to some studies there is a genetic connection to this nail syndrome but the exact cause is still unknown.


A known skin disorder, called Psoriasis causes red and scaly patches on the skin. This typical autoimmune disorder is accompanied by Psoriasis of nails that affect both fingernails and toenails. And so when there is a white buildup under the nails due to psoriasis, ridges are developed on the nails and they slowly loosen and get separated from the nail bed.


Another skin condition called Paronychia results in redness and swelling around the nail. With time and after multiple infections, the fingernails and toenails both become thick. And soon the layers of nail begins to peel off.

The most possible reasons behind the development of this condition is frequent dishwashing, sucking of fingers, and too much trimming of nails and cuticle. The various occupations that are at high risk for developing this condition are-

  • dishwashers
  • laundry workers
  • bartenders
  • cleaners
  • nurses
  • cooks
  • fishermen


Aging is the natural cause behind thickening of nails it is known that with growing age, the nails and the cuticle around it starts to thicken. This condition is mostly observed in toenails, but in some cases the fingernails and the skin under it also thickens. The possible explanation behind this belief is that the process of renewal of cells is slow in old people as compared to young people.

When the nails are affected due to aging, these thick nails and ridges cannot be treated. And so you can lighten their appearance by slightly buffing them.

Symptoms of Thick Toenails?

Thick toenails due to white buildup underneath the can go unnoticed during the initial stage. But with time as the condition aggravates, and the thickness of the nails and skin under it changes, a person gets to know about the condition. The symptoms include-

  • change in color the color of toenail from clear to yellow, green, or brown.
  • a foul or bad odor starts coming from the toenail
  • discomfort and pain is felt in the nails
  • toenails lift up a little from the nail bed
  • trimming or cutting them completely becomes difficult
  • toenails split or crumble, becomes brittle and can be broken easily
  • dirt and other debris gets collected under the toenails
  • toenails look chalky and scaly in appearance

How to Get Rid of White Buildup under Toenails?

Keeping your feet clean and dry is one important step in preventing and curing the fungal attack. Since one cannot avoid the attack from microscopic organisms, you can incorporate this nail care routine. This five step process will definitely help you treat the infection from spreading.

Step 1

Wash your feet everyday with warm water and antibacterial soap. After washing pat dry your feet and toes with an absorbent towel. Make sure you dry your feet thoroughly, as moist areas are more prone to infection. Also pay close attention to the space in between the fingers.

Step 2

Using toenail clippers cut your toenails properly in line just above the skin. Cut the toenails across in a straight way and using a nail file remove all the sharp edges giving your nail a smooth file.

Step 3

Then apply to all the toenails an antifungal nail lacquer. You can apply one to two coats of the antifungal polish, once in a week. This will help to prevent the deep spread of the fungus from your toenails to underneath them. Most of antifungal lacquers will require you to produce a prescription, though there are some over-the-counter preparations also available that you can take.

Step 4

Take the toenail fungus treatment cream and squeeze a pea-sized dollop of it onto your clean fingertips. Massage the cream uniformly over your toenails and on the thick skin both around and under the nails. Repeat this process twice daily. You can buy the toenail fungus creams from any pharmacy and grocery stores. For a stronger variety of fungus treatment cream you will require the doctor’s prescription.

Step 5

Wait for about two weeks and observe if the thick white skin under your toenails disappears or reduces. If not then consult a physician for some oral or topical medication. A stronger prescription by the doctor will be helpful from the over the counter brands that are available easily.

Home Remedies and Treatment

There are a variety of home based remedies that you can try to treat nail fungus. If you do not have much time to visit a doctor or give some time for toenail care, these home based remedies will help you.

  • First always clean the affected area with an antibacterial soap and water daily.
  • Give a few minutes from your busy day to groom your nails. Apply urea cream (Aluvea, Keralac) to soften the nails and then wrap bandages on the feet while sleeping. Next day, wash off the applied cream and using a nail clipper and a nail filer, properly trim your nails.
  • After gently filing your nails, apply an over-the-counter fungal treatment cream.
  • You can also apply on your toenail Vicks VapoRub. Application of this each day may help to diminish the infection.
  • Application of the snakeroot extract every third day to the toenail for the first month, twice in a week for the second month, followed by once in a week for the third month.
  • Tea tree oil also works great to clean up the white fungus growth under toenails. You can apply it twice a day on a regular basis.

Medical Treatments

If the above mentioned daily care routine and home remedies doesn’t work, then you will require medical interventions that is recommended by a professional. The prescriptions by doctors include-

  • oral medications
  • topical medications
  • laser treatments
  • treatment of nail bed by removing the toenail

You will require a treatment plan of several months to treat the fungal attack on toenails. Infected toenails will grow slowly, and so about 12 to 18 months are required for the new nails to replace the old ones.

Also after the treatment, there are full chances that you experience a recurrence of the fungal infection. And so it is important that you prevent it from coming back. This is possible if you take the following points into consideration.

When to See a Doctor?

As there are a lot of reasons that can lead to thick nails and a white buildup of fungus under the toenails. And so if you are noticing a change in color or thickness of the toenails for a longer period of time, you can consult a doctor. Conditions like psoriasis and diabetes can be dangerous and should be treated properly.

And if you are not sure of the reason behind such changes in the toenails, then you should consult your doctor and be sure that there is nothing serious behind the condition.

How to Prevent Thick Toenails?

You can prevent the recurrence of the white buildup under toenails or the fungal infection using the following prevention tricks.

  • Always keep your feet clean. Wash them with soap and warm water, if possible daily. Pat dry or air dry them with an absorbent towel.
  • Try to keep your feet as dry as possible. Also maintain the hygiene of your feet by changing your socks daily. Try to wear cotton socks as they are good moisture absorbent and thus helps in removing the moisture from feet, dry out your shoes by rotating it, and never go for a shoe type that doesn’t allow your feet to breathe and constrict it.
  • Keep your foot dry by using a foot powder.
  • Everytime you go for a shower or are in the locker room, wear flip-flops or shower shoes or open end shoes.
  • Maintain your toenails and never let them grow out of the toe’s end. So proper grooming of your feet is important.
  • Trimming of nails should be done using tools that are clean and disinfected.
  • In case your nail fungus has just cured then go for a new footwear. It will help you prevent from further infection.

Wrapping Up

Nails whether of fingers or toes, are important and should be kept healthy. Though made up of dead cells, nails are highly prone to catching an infection. So if you too are noticing fungal buildup under toenails, then it is time you pay attention towards the condition and get it cured as soon as possible. For keeping toenails healthy, stay dry, stay clean.

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