Overview

Yellow skin on your feet is usually nothing to worry about. Feet endure a lot of pressure and friction, which can lead to the development of thick, discolored skin. In rare cases, yellow feet may be a sign of an underlying condition.

Keep reading to learn more about what causes yellow feet and when you should see a doctor.

Calluses

Calluses are thick layers of hardened skin that often develop on the bottom of your feet. They’re more common in areas that experience a lot of friction or regularly have pressure applied to them. This makes the bottom of your feet, including the balls of your feet and heels, particularly prone to calluses.

They look similar to regular skin, but calluses are usually thicker and may be discolored. Other signs of a callus include:

  • dry, flaky skin
  • waxy looking skin
  • hard, thick skin

Calluses are typically painless and only require treatment if their appearance bothers you. If you want to get rid of them, try these over-the-counter treatments and home remedies.

Jaundice

When you have jaundice, your skin and the whites of your eyes look yellow. It occurs when your body contains too much of a substance called bilirubin. Bilirubin is a natural, yellow byproduct that forms when your body breaks down old red blood cells. It typically travels through your liver and into your digestive tract. It’s then eliminated as waste.

When your body can’t properly remove bilirubin, it builds up in your bloodstream and leaks into your skin. If jaundice is causing your yellow feet, you’ll likely notice a yellow tint around other areas as well.

Several things can cause jaundice, including:

See your doctor right away if you have symptoms of jaundice. They can do a bilirubin blood test, followed by additional testing to figure out what’s causing it.

Carotenemia

Carotenemia occurs when you have too many carotenoids in your bloodstream. Carotenoids are yellow substances that are found in many brightly colored vegetables and fruits. These substances are a normal part of a healthy diet, and they contribute to the natural color of your skin. Carotenoids usually leave your body through urine, stool, sweat, or skin oils.

However, if too many build up in your blood, it can make your skin yellow. This discoloration tends to show up the most on your palms and the soles of your feet.

Many things can cause carotenemia, including the foods you eat and certain health conditions.

Diet

Yes, eating too many carrots can actually give your skin a yellowish tint. Other foods that can cause carotenemia include:

  • pumpkin
  • squash
  • sweet potatoes
  • peppers
  • green vegetables
  • citrus fruits
  • nutritional supplements

You would have to eat an unusually large amount of these foods over several weeks to notice this effect. If your yellow feet are caused by eating too many carotenoid-rich foods, they should return to their usual color shortly after you reduce your intake of these foods.

Other causes

You can also develop carotenemia from conditions that affect how your body processes and gets rid of carotenoids. Common conditions that might do this include:

These conditions can all cause carotenoids to build up in your bloodstream, where they can eventually start affecting your skin.

Keep in mind that liver conditions can cause both carotenemia and jaundice, which look very similar. If you have a liver condition, a simple blood test can help your doctor narrow down what’s causing your yellow skin.

How is it diagnosed?

If you only notice yellow discoloration on your feet, consider seeing a podiatrist, which is a doctor who specializes in foot conditions. They can easily recognize calluses or any other conditions that might be causing the discoloration.

If you notice yellow skin in areas other than just your feet, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. They’ll likely start by running a series of tests, including:

Depending on the results of these tests, they may also use a CT scan or MRI to help them determine your diagnosis.

Should I be worried?

Sometimes, yellowing skin can indicate medical emergency or serious condition. Contact your doctor immediately if your skin is yellow and you experience any of the following:

  • bloody or black stools
  • fever
  • cognitive problems, such confusion or drowsiness
  • severe abdominal pain or tenderness
  • bloody vomit
  • easy bruising or bleeding

The bottom line

Yellow feet can look alarming, but it’s usually from skin buildup on the soles of your feet. It can also be a bodily response to a diet full of colorful fruits and vegetables. However, it can occasionally signal an underlying condition that needs treatment, so it’s best to check with your doctor if you notice any other symptoms.