Justin Delgado is husband to Kacie Doyle-Delgado, diagnosed at age 11. After more than a decade together, he considers himself to be an expert carb counter and Dexcom inserter. He graduated with his Master of Science in Finance from the University of Utah in 2013 and has been working in commercial banking since then. He attended his first Friends for Life conference in 2015 and is looking forward to volunteering with the teens.
August 3, 2003
Question from Gardnerville, Nevada, USA:
I am a 32 year old female, was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 18 which my doctor was very mild and could be controlled with diet and exercise, and I haven't been treated or tested for it since. For years I have had a problem with yellow fingernails which I always assumed was stain from wearing fingernail polish, but I recently learned that it could be a result of diabetes. The nail is the normal pinkish color at the base, near the cuticle, it starts to turn a faint yellow about one-quarter of the way up the nail and then gets darker yellow towards the tip. Is there a way to get rid of the yellow on my nails? Is there a cream or other product I can use? Would a change in diet fix the problem? Any suggestion would be helpful.
I am not familiar with diabetes specifically being the cause of nail discoloration. Nails, however, can reflect a person’s overall nutritional status. I would suggest that you confirm that your diabetes is in good control with a check up, a hemoglobin A1c check and a fasting blood sugar check. You may want to consult with a dietitian to see that your meal plan is nutritionally sound. Check with your physician — many are recommending a daily multivitamin. Your nails may just need to grow out — avoid nail polish. Check with a nail technician for recommendations about cuticle oils and buffing. These things may promote new healthy nail growth.
Additional comments from Dr. Donough O’Brien:
One possible explanation is that the yellow colouring is due to non enzymatic glycation of the stratum corneum below the nail; but this would imply poorly controlled diabetes over a long period which does not seem to apply in your case. See Effect of non-enzymatic glycosylation and heating on browning of human stratum corneum and nail. Dermatologica. 1991;183(3):197-202. Sueki H, Nozaki S, Numazawa S, Aoki K, Kuroiwa Y, Fujisawa R.
The other possibility is that this is a fungal infection of the nails which can be treated topically or with a variety of oral medications. To make sure of the diagnosis and to specify treatment you will need to arrange to see your physician or a dermatologist.