Have you ever noticed a white spot on your nail beds or your toes? For some people, the white spots may appear as tiny dots speckled across the nails, while for others, they may be larger and stretch across the entire nail.
This common issue is called leukonychia, and in most cases, it is entirely harmless. Many healthy adults notice that these white spots appear on their nails at some point in their lives, and in most cases, they are not a sign of a serious medical condition. That being said, knowing the causes of leukonychia can be useful. Although this is rare, in some cases, leukonychia could point to a more serious issue. Here are the most common reasons why those white spots form on your nails.
If you’ve ever injured your nail, there is a good chance that you have developed white spots as a result. You might injure your nail by accidentally shutting your fingers in a door, or hitting your nails against a counter or a desk. Leukonychia can happen even if the trauma to the nail was minor. In this case, the spots may take a while to go away, as nails grow slowly.
It can take several months to a year for the nail to renew itself and the white spot to disappear. If there are no other symptoms, waiting patiently is all you can do.
While manicures and artificial nails can look great, they are not very gentle on your nails. According to Dr. Spencer Kroll, an internal medicine specialist, these practices also count as trauma to the nail, so it may take a while for the nail to grow out.
“There can be an allergic reaction to something topically on the fingers, from nail lacquers to fake nails to other topical applications,” he says.
Your nails are an extension of your skin. If you’re suffering from a condition that affects your skin like eczema or psoriasis, it can also affect your nails. Both of these conditions are characterized by itchy rashes and redness, which can manifest themselves on the nails, too.
Psoriasis of the nails tends to cause pitted white dots, while eczema can cause ridges, discoloration, and thickening. If you know that you have one of these conditions and it started appearing on the nails, too, it's best to consult a dermatologist.
Among the first signs of the common nail fungus called White Superficial Onychomycosis are small white dots on the nails (usually the toenails). In more severe cases, whiteness and thickening can spread to the entire nail.
Nail fungus is very easy to confuse with psoriasis or eczema, according to medical experts. In order to diagnose the condition properly, your doctor will take a clipping or scraping from your nails and send it off to a lab. The lab will then identify whether or not a fungus is causing the infection. The treatment may be oral, topical, and sometimes even surgical, depending on the severity.
One symptom of Covid-19 that is getting more awareness recently is ‘Covid toes’. Typically, it involves the toes swelling up and turning a pink or reddish color. In some cases, patients also experience pale nail beds. “It can look whitish and could be seen in fingernails as well,” explained Dr. Emmanuel Loucas to The Healthy.
As we mentioned, white spots are very common, so don’t be alarmed if you have them. It is by no means a surefire sign of Covid-19. Keep a close eye on other symptoms - like fever, dry cough, or the loss of the sense of smell - and get tested if you’re unsure. Another thing to keep in mind is that this symptom of Covid-19 is more common in young people. To learn more about this topic, take a look at our previous article Do Parents Need to Be Wary of COVID Toes in Kids?
It’s a common belief that a lack of calcium is responsible for white spots on your nails. However, doctors and researchers aren’t convinced that it's true. Some claim that vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be the cause of this phenomenon, while others say that it is a mere myth.
According to Dr. Kroll, it depends on each patient’s medical history and dietary habits. In general, leukonychia is associated with Vitamin D, calcium, and zinc deficiencies.
Very rarely, white spots, brittle nails, and ridges on the surface of the nail can indicate a more serious condition like an autoimmune disease, heart disease, or kidney failure.
However, these diseases never manifest themselves through white spots alone. If you are experiencing additional, more concerning symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately.
The bottom line is: while leukonychia can be unsightly, it’s nothing to worry about most of the time. Usually, it’s just a result of bumping your nails against the kitchen island. To rule out more serious conditions, don't hesitate to discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider.
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