Orange toenails can be unattractive and may lead one to believe he has a serious medical condition, but the condition usually is not a very serious problem. If the toes recently have been hit or stubbed, then there is a possibility that blood has accumulated under and around the toenails, which can lead to orange toenails. Shoes that do not fit correctly also can press into toenails, causing bleeding to occur. Fungal infections often result in toenails turning orange, but the infection itself rarely is life threatening. Toenails that are cut incorrectly can lead to both infection and trauma.
One of the most common causes of orange toenails is trauma resulting from having one's toes stepped on, hitting a toe or toes against something or otherwise causing trauma to the digits. If the trauma exerts enough force, then this can cause bleeding. Unlike a cut anywhere else in the skin, where the blood can easily spill out, blood has a difficult time escaping from under the toenail, so it sits there and changes color as it ages. This can lead to orange, red or black toenails, though the color usually will subside with time.
A common reason for anything on the body to turn orange is infection. When it comes to orange toenails, the infection is almost always fungal, though it also can be bacterial. This can be the result of trauma lifting the toenails to allow dirt underneath, cracked toenails that let dirt become trapped, or from a weak immune system that cannot otherwise fight off the infection. Medication typically will be needed to heal the infection and allow the toenails to return to their normal color.
When shoes do not fit correctly, they may be uncomfortable, or they may cause trauma to the toenails. This usually happens if the shoes are severely tight, but even slightly tight shoes can make the toenails more susceptible to turning orange. Unlike other causes of orange toenails, this usually is easy to correct before the symptom actually occurs.
Many people cut their toenails as part of routine hygiene, but improperly cutting them can lead to both trauma and infection. By cutting toenails too short, someone can accidentally cut himself and to open the nail area to problems. Cutting below the white nail and into the pink area increases the chances of this happening. If the toenails already are low but need to be shaped, then it may be better simply to file down the toenails instead of using trimmers.