The health of an individual can be assessed by observing the nails. Sometimes white spots on nails are seen. This article discusses the causes of white spots on nails, their types, and treatment.
A healthy individual will have pale pink colored nails in both fingers and toes. Many people have lunula which is crescent shaped at the bottom of each nail. Many such abnormalities are seen in nails and white spots are one of them. White spots on the nails are called leukonychia.
Causes of White Spots on Nails or Leukonycia
One of the commonest causes of white spots on nails is an injury. Some other factors, which contribute to the causes of white spots on nails include:
Hereditary Causes: Rarely, the condition may be genetically inherited. It could be the symptom (although very rare) of some complex syndromes like Bauer syndrome, Bart Pumphrey syndrome, earlier disease, and Bushkill Gorlin syndrome. Hereditary leukonychia often shows at birth or in early infancy, whereas acquired type appears in childhood.1
Illness: White bands could be the symptom of anemia with iron deficiency, heart failure, kidney disease, zinc deficiency, diabetes, and presence of excess protein in intestine, liver cirrhosis, eczema, hyperthyroidism, psoriasis, and fungal infection.
Side Effects of Drugs: Prolonged use of certain medications too can lead to the appearance of white spots on the nails. The medicines causing side effects are sulphonamides used to treat bacterial infections, the procedures which involve arsenic and lead. Chemotherapy may also cause leukonychia in cancer patients.
Trauma: Injury is common in children who have the habit of biting the nails or who use tight footwear which gives unnecessary pressure over the nails. It can be found on the nails of women who frequently have manicures.
Types of White Spots on Nails
There are many types of white spots on nails. The main classification depends on whether the white spots occupy the whole nail or a portion of the nail.
Some of the common types of white spots on nails include,
Total leukonychia: This is a condition where the white spots are seen on the complete nail.
Partial leukonychia: Here the white spots appear on a few parts on the nail. It can be classified into three more types.
Some people have horizontal cross lines on the nails which run parallel to the lunula. These lines are called memes lines or the condition is also referred to as transverse leukonychia or striate leukonychia. In some people, white spots on nails are referred to as punctuate leukonychia. This is the commonest form and occurs due to picking and biting of nails. Yet another type of white spots on nails is the presence of white bands perpendicular to the lunula. These run longitudinally, hence referred to as longitudinal leukonychia.
Some other types of white spots on nails are also considered, as follows,
In some cases, the nail bed under the nail is affected. This will intern change the color of the nail itself and causes white spots. Pressure can be applied to some extent to get rid of these spots. They do not move along with the growing nail. This is called apparent leukonychia or pseudo leukonychia.
In some patients, the white spots grow with the nail and would be gradually removed. These spots are not affected by the application of pressure on them. This condition is called true leukonychia.
Diagnosis of White Spots on Nails or Leukonychia
The doctors may find out the reason for this condition just by observation or by gathering information about the trauma. The doctors may advise other tests to confirm the cause for this condition when they are uncertain of the root cause.
The tests include:
Biopsy of the Nail: A piece of tissue is removed and sent for further investigation.
Mycology: This test is conducted to find out any fungal infection.
Blood Tests: These help to detect the systemic disease if any.
Treatment of White Spots on Nails or Leukonychia
Treatment of white spots on nails depends on the underlying cause. Conditions like true leukonychia usually go off by itself. As the nail grows, the white spot also grows and is removed off. If the doctors are not sure about the cause, they depend upon the tests and then decide the kind of treatment. When white spots on nails develop on their own, it may be a little difficult to treat. When the cause of white spots on nails is allergies, it is treated with medications.
Prevention of White Spots on Nails or Leukonychia
If the doctors identify the cause of leukonychia, they may advice:
- To minimize the usage of nail polish and manicure
- To stay away from the substances which cause irritation and white spots
- To cut the nails regularly
- To avoid biting of nails
- To use a suitable moisturizer to prevent dryness of the nails
- To have a nutritious and well-balanced diet to improve the overall health
- To include the dietary fibers in the form of fruits and vegetables which promote better digestion
Natural Remedies for White Spots on Nails or Leukonychia
Natural remedies too can provide relief from white spots on nails. Essential oils like lavender oil and tea tree oil may sometimes be used to treat white spots on nails. Usage of lemon juice, baking soda, yogurt, garlic, orange oil, white vinegar seems to reduce the leukonychia. These remedies have antifungal properties and support to reverse the condition.
Leukonychia is the appearance of white spots on the nail, which occurs irrespective of age or gender. It could be a symptom of some disorder or itself can be a deficiency disease. However, the most commonly noted cause of white spots on nails is trauma. As there are various types of white spots on nails, their treatment varies accordingly. Anyways, it is important to maintain the health of nails which are the indicators of a person’s health. A balanced diet, better digestion, and a healthy lifestyle can help take care of the nails.