White spots on nails (leukonychia) can have a number of causes and even tell something about your health. White spots can be tiny in size or a bit larger, and are more common on fingernails than toe nails. White spots on nails can reveal anything from an injury to a deficiency to even some diseases, but in either case you should have them checked out to determine what the cause of your white spots is.
Causes of white spots on nails
Nail injuries: A spot or line can appear on the nail due to an injury. These do not appear immediately after injury, so you may have forgotten that you injured the nail by the time the white spots appear. This is not a threatening condition and will resolve on its own.
Allergic reaction: Experiencing an allergic reaction to nail polish or other nail products can result in white spots on nails.
Zinc deficiency: Zinc is a metal naturally occurring in many foods like oysters, chicken, and mushrooms, to name a few. Your body requires zinc to perform many functions. A simple blood test can confirm a zinc deficiency, and depending on the severity diet changes or supplements may be required.
Protein deficiency: The white color on your nails resulting from a protein deficiency will appear as horizontal bands across the nail bed. These white lines will not grow out, unlike white spots on nails, because they are in the nail bed, not the nail itself. To resolve this issue, you need to increase your protein intake. For determining whether your white lines on nails result from a protein deficiency press down on the nail. If the lines disappear, you are deficient in protein.
Calcium deficiency: Similar to a zinc deficiency, a calcium deficiency will appear as white spots on nails. Instead of buying products to apply to your nails with calcium, simply consume more calcium as part of your diet to resolve the issue.
Fungal superficial onychomycosis: This is primarily found on toe nails where white spots appear on the nail plate and spread to the nail bed. The nail will first appear flaky, then thicken and split, especially when wearing shoes. To get a proper diagnosis, your doctor will need to examine a piece of the toenail.
Serious disease: Some serious diseases can first present themselves as white spots on nails. These include liver disease, kidney disease, anemia, and koilonychias. Seeing a doctor can help you determine the cause of your white spots and rule out if it is something minor or a sign of something more serious.
White spots on nails (leukonychia) symptoms
Initial symptoms of leukonychia include white spots, dots, or lines appearing on the nail or nail bed. Other symptoms may be experienced depending on the underlying cause. For example, if it is a fungus, then the nail will become thick and begin to split. If the cause of white spots on nails is anemia, a person may constantly feel tired and bruise easily as well.
It’s important to be mindful of other symptoms that occur at the same time as white spots on nails appear, as you may have to seek out medical attention.
Home remedies for white spots on nails
Here are some general tips to help you resolve white spots on nails.
- Allow the spot to grow out
- Moisturize your nails
- Eat a healthy diet with zinc, protein, calcium, vitamin C, and iron
- Keep your nails clean and properly cut to reduce the risk of infection
- Protect your nails from injury
- Cover the white spots with nail polish until it grows out
Remember to see your doctor if any drastic changes occur to your nails, especially if you have been experiencing other symptoms as well.
When to see a doctor for leukonychia
If the white spots on your nails are spreading, it is a good indicator that you should see a doctor. If other symptoms arise or the nail itself begins to change – thickens, cracks, etc. – these signs should prompt you to seek out medical attention as well.