Why do white spots appear on the nails? 

Are you interested in finding out why white spots appear on nails? Here are the reasons why they appear and what you can to do get rid of them.

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Have you ever had a white spot on your nail and not known why? If this happened, you probably thought it was due to a lack of calcium. However, you should know that this popular belief is false. This small white spot that appears on the nails is a skin lesion named Leukonychia, which, in the majority of cases, is a harmless condition that can be caused by a variety of reasons.

Causes of Leukonychia

Leukonychia is a dystrophic nail disorder characterised by white spots of various shapes and sizes. This syndrome can occur in both adults and children alike and indicated a lesion of the nail caused by:

  • Onychophagia (compulsive nail biting).
  • A blow to the nail or very rough manicures.
  • Reaction to a medication or treatment such as Chemotherapy. 
  • Reaction to a chemical compound.
  • Liver or kidney failure.
  • A skin disease such as Psoriasis or Eczema.
  • Anaemia or iron deficiency.
  • Deficiency of Zinc, Vitamin B3 or Niacin.                                
  • Problems related to protein digestion.
  • Systemic disease.

Types of Leukonychia

These spots or lesions on the nails can manifest themselves in different shapes and sizes, by which we can distinguish different types of Leukonychia:

  • Leukonychia punctata: it is characterised by several small white spots along the nail. It occurs in both children and healthy adults and is caused by trauma to the nail. It also tends to occur in people who have experienced very rough manicures, or in women with very long nails, who tend to suffer greater trauma to the area. It is a mild and very common condition.
  • Leukonychia striata or Mees' lines: it is characterised by one or more horizontal white lines along the entire length of the nail. Mees' lines were originally used to describe this trauma in patients with arsenic poisoning, although nowadays they can also indicate poisoning by other heavy metals such as lead. Leukonychia striata can also occur in people suffering from a systemic disease such as Lupus.   
  • Partial or Half-and-Half Leukonychia: this is where half of the nail is white and the other half is not. These types of spots may occur in patients undergoing invasive medical treatment, such as Chemotherapy. They can also be caused by incomplete keratinisation due to persistence of keratohyalin granules, or in people who have suffered severe trauma to the nail matrix.
  • Total Leukonychia: this is a very rare nail disorder characterised by complete discolouration of the nail, i.e., the entire nail is whitish in colour. This discolouration of the nail is often accompanied by various skin or systemic conditions.

How to avoid their appearance?

Now that you know why white spots appear on the nails, you should realise that the only way to treat them is with time. In other words, you must let your nail grow at its natural pace, which for hands, takes between 6 and 9 months, and for feet, between 12 and 18 months. But what can you do to avoid mild cases of white spots on the nails? 

  • Maintain a balanced diet, rich in Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Vitamin B2 and Folic Acid, among others. Discover which foods strengthen your defence mechanisms.
  • Avoid trauma to the hands and feet.
  • Keep your nails short; in other words, avoid excessively long manicures.
  • Avoid nail polish and rough manicures, for example, false nails or gel nails.
  • Perform manicures with appropriate products and qualified professionals. 
  • In terms of toenails, it is advisable to keep them short, as to not rub against footwear. 
  • Avoid sports that harshly affect the nails.
  • Keep up with an appropriate nailcare routine. Discover how to take care of nails and toenails.

Aside from keeping up with an appropriate nailcare routine, remember to consult a Dermatologist or General Practitioner in cases of severe signs of Leukonychia in order to rule out more serious conditions.