At first glance, the skin on your feet may appear to have a yellowish hue. A case of yellow feet is usually harmless and may disappear on its own. The discoloration can indicate excess beta-carotene in the diet, exposure to certain chemicals, or may be the warning sign of a rare and serious underlying health condition. Identifying yellow feet causes may require medical diagnosis. We will look at the common reasons the toes, toenails, upper surface, or the soles of the feet turn yellow.
Yellow Feet Causes
One commonly seen yellow feet cause is the condition known as jaundice. The yellow coloring of the skin occurs when excess bilirubin accumulates in the bloodstream. This is a waste byproduct that forms when the liver breaks down aging blood cells.
High levels of bilirubin escape into the skin’s tissue, resulting in the yellow discoloration. This process may be triggered by obstruction of the biliary duct, red blood cell disease, and liver damage.
A harmless but unsightly cause of feet turning a shade of yellow is hypercarotenemia. This is seen with a buildup of beta-carotene in the connective tissues, due to excessive consumption of the pigment in plant-based foods. Related foods include oranges, carrots, squash, spinach, and potatoes, among others.
Short- and long-term cases of anemia may present yellowing of the skin in addition to lethargy and extreme fatigue. It occurs with a lack of red blood cells, as the body requires abundant amounts for oxygen support. It is commonly referred to as a deficiency of iron in the blood.
4. Trinitrotoluene Poisoning
The explosive chemical compound trinitrotoluene, or TNT, may cause a yellow discoloration of the skin when used. This occurs as a reaction between melanin, the natural pigment that gives skin its color, and the volatile nitro groups within TNT. Handlers of the TNT may often see the soles of the feet turn yellow.
5. Yellow Nails
This condition is more of a symptom than a direct cause of yellow discoloration. Yellow nails often are seen with respiratory diseases and lymphedema.
Along with the nailbeds turning yellow, other signs may include a dark coloring of the fingernails, cuticle detachment, and swelling.
6. Other Causes
Yellowing of the feet may also be a result of severe digestive and metabolism-based health conditions, such as diabetes mellitus or hyperlipoproteinemia (the inability to break down fats and cholesterol). These cases may require immediate attention.
There is also a case report of a 68-year-old woman whose soles turned yellow after taking a turmeric root extract capsule once a day for four months.
How to Treat Yellow Feet
The best advice for how to get rid of yellow feet is to identify the cause and take steps to treat the source. Medical treatments can be used to reduce and stop the yellow coloring of the feet while treating the underlying cause.
- Jaundice: Depending on the cause of the jaundice, it may be treated by increasing iron in the blood, using steroid or anti-viral drugs, or undergoing surgery to remove any obstruction causing the yellow-coloring. Medications that cause jaundice can be changed to another type.
- Hypercarotenemia: This condition simply requires a special diet that limits or avoids beta carotene products.
- Anemia: Iron, folate, and vitamin B12 supplements, along with an iron-rich diet, may help to treat yellow-colored feet. This includes reducing consumption of beta carotene-enriched foods.
- Trinitrotoluene poisoning: As TNT is a hazardous chemical, the only treatment is a regime of medications restricted to hospital use. If skin comes in contact with TNT, clothes should be removed and skin is to be scrubbed well with soap and water before seeking immediate medical attention.
- Yellow nails: Fungal infections causing toenails to turn yellow may be treated with topical antifungal medications applied directly to the nail. Other infection-causing episodes may be treated with antibiotics and vitamin D3 topical corticosteroids.
- Health disorders: Health conditions like liver disease, respiratory disorders, and cancers must be treated, rather than the discoloration. The yellow skin coloring may disappear over time during treatment, whether it is with medications or surgery.
Natural Home Remedies for Yellow Feet
Home remedies may be effective at treating less severe cases of yellow feet. Consult with a physician if you suspect that your discoloration is caused by chemical poisoning or chronic health conditions.
- Apply a potato paste to the feet to get rid of yellow coloring. Boil potatoes and mash well. Rub on the feet until mashed potatoes are cold. Repeat daily until a normal color returns.
- Limit consumption of yellow-colored vegetables and carrots.
- Drink fruit juices that help to flush out toxins by cleansing the liver, such as cranberry juice.
- Add fruits and vegetables enriched with vitamin B12 and iron.
- Consume high-fiber foods to regulate digestion and metabolism rate.
- Eat animal organ meats such as kidney and liver to increase iron intake.
- Rest and have at least eight hours of sleep each night to reduce the coloring.
- Use tea tree oil or “Vicks” vapor rub on yellow toenails.
- Treat yellow nails with zinc or vitamin E topical applications.
Yellow Feet Prevention
The following lifestyle and dietary changes may help you prevent a future case of yellow feet.
- Wash feet daily to remove disease-causing microorganisms.
- Maintain a healthy diet enriched with iron and vitamin B.
- Reduce exposure to trinitrotoluene (TNT).
- Keep toenails clean, dry, and cut straight across.
Yellow feet can be alarming, although the condition is primarily caused by excess or deficient amounts of vitamins or minerals such as iron or beta-carotene in the bloodstream. The degree of discoloration may range from mild to severe and may be temporary or long-term.
Most cases of yellow feet may disappear on their own, while others may require medical intervention of drugs and/or surgery. Natural home remedies like potato pastes, tea tree oil, and vitamin E may also remove the coloring and possibly prevent the recurrence of yellow feet.
Cucic, A., “Yellow Feet,” Med Health Daily; https://www.medhealthdaily.com/yellow-feet/, last accessed September 19, 2017.
Salina, “What are the Causes of Yellow Feet and Hands: How to Get Rid Of It?” Simple Remedies, June 12, 2012; http://www.simple-remedies.com/home-remedies/jaundice/yellow-feet-hands-causes-get-rid.html, last accessed September 19, 2017.
Gillott, C., “Jaundice: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments,” Medical News Today, December 16, 2016; https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/165749.php, last accessed September 19, 2017.
“2,4,6 – Trinitrotoluene (TNT),” Delaware Health and Social Services; http://dhss.delaware.gov/dph/files/tnt246faq.pdf, last accessed September 19, 2017.
“Why Are My Toenails Yellow?” Healthline; http://www.healthline.com/health/why-are-my-toenails-yellow#overview1, last accessed September 19, 2017.
“Anemia,” Mayo Clinic; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/home/ovc-20183131, last accessed September 19, 2017.
Horev, L., et al., “Yellow Feet in a Patient with Breast and Thyroid Carcinoma, Due to Oral Intake of Turmeric,” Drug Safety Case Reports, Dec. 2015, 2(1):4; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5005595/, last accessed September 19, 2017.
“Yellow Hands and Feet: Causes, Home Remedies for Yellow Hands and Feet,”Tandurust, March 29, 2010; http://www.tandurust.com/health-faq/yellow-hands-and-feet.html, last accessed September 19, 2017.