White spots can sometimes appear on the nails. When that occurs, it’s known as punctate leukonychia. There are several types of leukonychia.
What Is Leukonychia
Total leukonychia refers to a disorder where the entire nail plate is fully white in color.
The other form is partial leukonychia. There are three major types of partial leukonychia:
- Punctate leukonychia, which is small white spots on the nails
- Longitudinal leukonychia, which is a white line down the nail
- Striate or transverse leukonychia, where one or two horizontal lines appear around the nail, parallel to the lunula. These are also often called the Mees lines.
Patches of white skin, known as leukoderma, under the nail may also give the impression of partial leukonychia.
We can classify leukonychia into two other forms – true or apparent:
- When nail injury causes the white spot or line, the disease is known as true leukonychia. For true leukonychia, white areas remain unaffected while they are under pressure. These areas can grow as the nail does.
- Apparent leukonychia arises when the bed under the nail is affected. In the case of apparent leukonychia, the nail bed affects the color of the nail plate. It reduces or disappears under pressure and does not grow out of the nail.
Anybody can have white nails, no matter their sex, age, or ethnicity.
Causes Of White Spots On The Nails
Injury to the nail bed is the most common cause of leukonychia. If you pinch or touch your nail or finger, these injuries may occur. Frequent manicures and pedicures or the use of gel or acrylic nails can also affect nail beds. Several other factors may be responsible for unusual nail spots.
White spots or spots on your nails are common. Many problems can affect them. Possible causes shall include:
1. Allergic Reaction
An allergy to nail polish, gloss, hardener, or nail polish remover can create white spots on the nails. The use of acrylic or gel nails can also cause significant damage to your nails. This can cause these white spots on the nails.
Damage to the nail plate or to the region where the nail grows, known as the matrix, may cause damage to the nail. This form of injury is common in children and is usually causes white spots on the nails.
The types of injuries that may cause this include:
- Day-to-day nail injuries
- Footwear that is too tight, causing abnormal nail pressure.
As a result of these injuries, the nail will develop out of the spot.
Common nail fungus, called white surface onychomycosis, can occur on the toenails. A few small white spots on the nails can be the first sign of the infection.
The infection can develop and spread to the nail bed. Toenails can become flaky and become thick, and brittle.
4. Poisoning and Drugs
Few types of poisoning or medicine can also cause leukonychia. This cause is relatively rare and often results in transverse leukonychia.
This is a relatively uncommon cause that sometimes occurs in transverse leukonychia.
Poisoning and medicine that can lead to white areas on or under the nails shall include:
- Heavy metal toxicity from metals such as lead and arsenic
- Cancer chemotherapy, either by mouth, injection, or infusion through the skin, to kill cancer cells or stop them from separating.
- Sulphonamide, a drug used to cure bacterial diseases, such as skin infections, septicemia, and urinary tract infections
5. Mineral Deficiency
You can notice white spots or dots around your nails if you have a deficiency in some minerals or vitamins. The deficiencies most often linked with this problem are zinc deficiency and calcium deficiency.
6. Systemic Illness
Systemic diseases can cause white nails, as well. If so, it’s a signal that there’s a problem somewhere in the body. Again, it’s rarely the source of white spots on the nails.
Illnesses that may lead to white nails:
- Iron deficiency anemia, loss of iron in the body;
- Liver cirrhosis, which is a scar in the liver
- Kidney disease
- Heart failure
- Issues with protein digestion
- Excessive protein deficiency in the intestines
- Deficiency in zinc
- Hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid that results in abnormal levels of thyroid hormone in the body
Fungal disease or infection of the nail or the skin around the nail may also cause white spots to appear.
The nails are growing slowly. The fingernail’s full regrowth lasts from 6-9 months, while the toenail lasts between 12-18 months. As a result, the presence of white spots or nails may be a symptom of an illness or disease that occurred or begun several months before.
7. Hereditary Causes
White nails can be a genetic condition in very rare cases. However, this is usually due only to the presence of rare, complicated syndromes, such as:
- Bart-Pumphrey Syndrome, which entails issues with the nails, knuckles, and deafness
- Buschkell-Gorlin Syndrome, causing complications with the nails, skin cysts, and kidney stones
- Bauer syndrome, including problems with the nails and skin cysts
- Darier disease, which involves wart-like blemishes in different areas of the body;
8. Additional Causes
Less common causes of white nail spots are:
As these causes are possible, they are very rare. Your doctor will probably examine a host of other problems if you have persistent white spots on the nails before considering these more severe concerns.
How To Treat White Spots On The Nails
White spot diagnosis and treatment may rely on submitting nail clippings to the health care provider for study.
Treatment will depend on the cause of the white spot. If the doctor is unsure as to the cause, he can issue many tests:
- Mycology, where fungi and nail clippings are sent to research
- Nail biopsy, where a doctor takes a small piece of tissue for testing
- Blood test to identify the presence of a chronic illness
There is no cure for white spots of their own. Those that have been caused by trauma would naturally grow out of time.
If something other than injuries causes them, the doctor will need to identify the cause and treat it individually.
If someone has some questions about white spots on their nails, they should see a doctor.
There are ways that an individual can prevent white spots from reappearing. Preventive steps shall include:
- Prevent contact with irritant substances
- Stop excessive use of nail polish.
- Shortcutting of nails
- Avoid drying the nails by using a moisturizer after washing
In most cases, white nail spots are not a concern and will go away in time.
The Bottom Line
For most people, white spots on the nails are nothing more than a troublesome spot. They are rarely signs of major disorders, and most of them vanish on their own without treatment.
If you’ve seen the spots and are nervous, don’t think about it. A quick visit to the doctor will help you clear up the spots and answer any additional questions you might have. Most treatments are quick and effective.