Leukonychia is a common condition. Ring no bells? It is the condition causing white dots or lines to appear on your fingernail or toenails. In most cases, the problem can cause no harm to your life. The entirely harmless problem can occur frequently in your life. Many healthy people can encounter a problem at any point in their life. The condition can occur due to many reasons. You just need to observe the symptoms that appear along with the condition. The white spots can appear differently in people. So, some people can see white spots appearing as small dots, which is spread across the nails. While others can see larger white spots, stretching across the entire nail. The spots can appear on a single nail or several nails at once.
In most of the cases, the condition affects your nail when you suffer trauma or injury to the nail bed. You can suffer from the injury due to simple causes. It can also occur due to allergic reactions. So, you need to detect the exact problem leading to the condition. Understanding the underlying cause of the problem can help get the ideal treatment to overcome the problem with ease. So, read ahead to know the steps you need to take to manage the condition without any complications.
What Is Leukonychia?
It is the medical term to define the white spots appearing on the nails. The white discoloration can occur due to trauma or injury to the base of the nail. The base of the nail or matrix is the place where your nail forms. Leukonychia is a word derived from Greek words leuko that means white and onyx meaning nail.
Types Of Leukonychia
You can classify the condition into different types based on how the spots appear on your nails. The different types are:
It is the condition when the whole nail plate appears completely white. Abnormal keratinization (the conversion into keratin) of your nail plate can result in the condition.
As the name suggests, it can cause partial discoloration of the nail plate. So, partial nail plate appears white. It is further divided into three types.
The condition can cause small white spots on your nails.
When you suffer from the condition, you can see a white band down your nail.
The condition also known as transverse leukonychia can result in one or more horizontal lines to appear on your nail. The lines appear parallel to your lunula. It is also known as Mees lines.
Some other conditions can give you the impression of partial leukonychia. For example, leukoderma (the patches of white skin) appearing underneath your nail has the same appearance.
Other Types Of Leukonychia
You can further divide the condition into two other types:
True leukonychia refers to the white spot or line occurring as a result of nail damage or trauma. The condition causes the white areas to remain unaffected when putting pressure on them. The affected areas grow out as your nail grows.
It is the condition occurring when the nail bed (present underneath your nail) suffers problems. The changes in the nail bed can result in the color change of the nail plate. When you put pressure on your nail, it can lessen or disappear. It also does not grow out with the nail.
The condition can affect anyone irrespective of their age, sex, or ethnicity. You need to understand what causes the problem to get the proper treatment to manage the condition.
Causes Of Leukonychia
The white spots on your nails can occur due to different reasons. It is a common condition caused by a different issue. The possible causes include:
You can suffer an allergic reaction due to using products like nail polish, nail polish remover, nail gloss or hardener. The chemicals in the product can trigger reaction leading to white spots on the nail. In some cases, the use of gel nails or acrylic nails can also cause damage to the nails resulting in leukonychia.
Nail fungus can cause an infection resulting in white spots on nails. The common nail fungus called white superficial onychomycosis can affect your nails, especially the toenails and result in the condition. When the infection grows, it spreads to the nail bed. It can cause flakiness of nail and become thick as well as brittle.
Injury to the nail
An injury or trauma to the fingernail can result in white dots of spots. You can see the dots/spots as the nail grows. You will only see the spots after some time. It is because the growth of your nails can take some time. So, you may not specifically recall the injury or trauma. In some cases, the spots may not show up for four weeks or more. The common injuries that you can sustain on the nail are:
- Striking of the finger with a hammer
- Shutting the fingers in the door
- Hitting the nails against a desk or counter
If you have sensitive nails, then frequent manicures can result in the damage of the nails. So, you can see white spots. The pressure applied by the manicurist can cause damage to the nail beds.
When you get deprived of certain minerals or vitamins, it can result in certain symptoms in your body. The white spots or dot on the nails indicates mineral deficiencies. In most common cases, zinc and calcium deficiency can trigger such symptoms.
In some rare cases, the white nails can indicate a genetic condition. If you suffer from some rare complex syndromes, then you can see white spots or lines on your nails. The complex syndromes triggering the problem are:
It is a rare syndrome causing nail problems like leukonychia, the thickness of nails, and nail crumbling. The condition can also cause skin problems, knuckle issues, and deafness.
The condition also known as nevoid basal cell carcinoma can affect different parts of your body. The syndrome can increase your risk of developing non-cancerous and cancerous tumors. So, you can experience kidney stone or skin cysts as a result of the condition. The problem can also trigger nail problems.
It is a rare disorder causing your immune system to attack the nerves in your body. So, you can experience tingling in your extremities and weakness. It can spread quickly to other areas and result in paralyzing the whole body. The rare syndrome can also cause skin cysts and nail problems.
It is a rare skin disorder causing wart-like blemishes on the affected person’s body. In most of the cases, the blemishes can have a yellow color. The blemishes have a greasy and hard texture. People affected by the problem can emit strong body odor. The syndrome can cause nail abnormalities. So, you can see red or white streaks on the nails with an irregular texture. The syndrome can also cause small pits in the soles of the feet and palms of the hands.
Additional Causes Of Leukonychia
Apart from the above-mentioned problems, the white spots on your nails can occur due to the following causes:
Though health problems can trigger leukonychia, it is a rare occurrence. Several conditions can cause white spots on the nails. The cause can range from simple to severe. If you suspect a serious condition, then consult your doctor for getting an accurate diagnosis.
Symptoms Of Leukonychia
Your finger and toenails normally appear pale pink. You can even see a crescent shape known as lunula at the bottom of the nail. When you see white spots on your nails, it can cause tension and frustration. Therefore, look for the following signs that indicate the presence of leukonychia:
- Large individual dots
- Tiny dots of pen-point size
- Larger white lines on your nails
The underlying cause of the problem can dictate how the spots appear on the nails. So, based on the appearance, you can determine the underlying cause of the problem. Trauma or injury to the nail can result in a large white dot to appear in the middle of your nail. While an allergic reaction can trigger several dots to appear on the nail. It can spread all over your nail. The appearance of the white dots can differ on each nail. So, the dots can vary on different nails. Depending on the underlying cause, you can experience additional signs or symptoms.
If you do not know the exact reason for the white spots on your nail, then you can see a doctor to detect the exact reason causing the problem. The spots in itself never cause you any harm. But, some health conditions lead to the development of white spots. So, getting it checked by the doctor can detect or rule out any issue. Your doctor can use the following diagnostic techniques to detect the problem:
Your doctor can inspect your nails on the hands as well as feet closely. Based on the observation, your doctor may ask you question about recent trauma or other problems resulting in the white spots. Your doctor can also suggest several tests to eliminate the other possible causes.
It is the study of fungus that can result in infection. The fungal infection can result in white spots on the nails. So, your nail clippings are sent to the laboratory for study.
A sample of blood is sent to the lab for testing. It can help detect systemic diseases or mineral deficiencies leading to the leukonychia.
It is the procedure that is suggested by the doctor as a last resort to detect nail problems. A sample of tissue from the nail is sent to the lab for testing. The test offers prognostic information about nail diseases.
Based on the cause of the problem, your doctor can treat the cause. Once the underlying problem heals, the white spots can heal by itself. In most cases, the problem can heal on its own. The white spots can clear once the nail grows.
Treatment Available For Leukonychia
You have no single successful treatment for whitening of nails. The doctor can suggest a treatment for the underlying condition leading to the problem. So, following the suggestion of the doctor can help treat the cause and see improvements in the condition. The treatment can vary depending on the underlying cause of the white spots. Therefore, you have the following treatment option based on the condition cause it:
You can see the white spots on your nail due to an allergic reaction. You can develop an adverse reaction as a result of using substances like nail polish or nail hardeners. If using such products cause the problem, then stop using it. Avoid nail products like gloss, polish, base coats, topcoats or even nail polish remover, which can cause the issue. All your nails may not react alike to the products. Some nails are more sensitive compared to others. Sensitive nails can have traumatic experience undergoing beauty treatments like pedicures and manicures. So, try to moderate manicures and pedicures. If you see the symptoms of an allergic reaction, even after avoiding such products, then consult your doctor for further evaluation.
Leukonychia can occur due to infection triggered by fungus. If you suffer from other symptoms along with white spots on your nail, then your doctor can suggest antifungal medication. The doctor can prescribe an oral antifungal medication or topical antifungal treatment for the nail problem. You have to undergo the specified treatment for at least three months. It is important to complete the course of medication as suggested by the doctor. If you quit taking the medication once you see visible changes, then you will never fully treat the infection.
The white spots occurring on your nail due to banging or knocking the fingers on something can clear on its own as the injury heals. So, you can adopt a wait and see approach for white spots occurring after the following incidents:
- Accidently catching your finger in the door
- Lifting heavy objects with your fingertips
- Using nail cutter inappropriately
Once the nail injuries heal, your nail can grow and the damage moves up the nail bed. So, as time progresses, the spots can disappear completely.
The lack of Zinc, calcium or Vitamin C can lead to the formation of white spots on your nails. So, eating a well-balanced diet with all the nutrients can stimulate the production of collagen. It promotes healthy nail growth. So, include the following food items that ensure you have a generous intake of essential nutrients:
- Citrus fruits
- Leafy vegetables
- Other Diseases
The presence of serious health problems can lead to leukonychia. So, you need to see your doctor for getting appropriate treatment to manage the suspected condition. It will help clear health condition causing white spots on your nails.
In most of the cases, the white spots can take some to heal and disappear. So, you can adopt the temporary method to overcome the troublesome problem. You can use nail polish to cover the spots. Use a skin-colored nail polish that will offer a natural look to your nail while covering the white spots. You can use colorful nail polishes that offer loads of personality. It can help you express your style and personality.
Home Remedies For Leukonychia
You can try some home remedies for simple causes of leukonychia to manage the condition. So, try the following steps:
Use Tea Tree Oil
You can massage tea tree oil on your nails to overcome white spots. The home remedy is effective when you have spots due to fungal infection.
Apply Lavender Oil
Lavender oil has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and analgesic properties. So, it can offer relief from pain and speed up healing of white spots due to injury.
Lemon juice has Vitamin C in it. So, applying it on your nails can promote good nail growth and keep the discoloration as well as spots from appearing.
You can continue the home remedies until you see desired results. It is always advisable to see a doctor to eliminate the presence of serious health issues that can cause the problem before using the home remedies.
You can prevent the recurrence of the problem by taking care of your nail. The basic care of your hands and nail will prevent any problem affecting the nail. So, you can follow the preventive steps suggested below to avoid the white spots from marring your self-confidence:
- You need to avoid contact with substances that can irritate. Direct contact with irritants can trigger an allergic reaction.
- Never use excess nail polish on your fingers. The nails can soak the nail polish causing stains and white spots. So, leave your nails free from nail polish for a few weeks.
- Cut your nails short and file them. Keeping them trimmed regularly can avoid injury or trauma to the nail.
- You need to prevent drying of your nails to prevent white spots or other nail problems. So, apply moisturizer after washing your nails.
In the majority of the cases, leukonychia can disappear as time progresses. So, you never have to worry too much about the problem.
Leukonychia is a bothersome spot that can cause you embarrassment. It may not cause any serious health complications. In rare cases, the problem can indicate something serious. But, most cases disappear without any treatment. If you see white spots on your nails, then do not put too much thought into it. You can make an appointment with your doctor to clear any suspicion. The medical professional can diagnose the actual problem causing the condition. You can also ask a question about the condition can clear any doubts. The treatments at home or the ones suggested by the doctor can offer good results.
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