Causes of white spots on nails


The appearance of white spots on the nails is most often associated with a lack of trace elements, in particular calcium. Most people don’t pay attention to them. This is especially true for women who always go with a manicure. But if in some cases dots, stripes and white spots that suddenly appear on the nail plate are not dangerous, then in others they can be a sign of serious violations. What can cause white spots on the nails, MedAboutMe figured out.

What are these spots anyway?

Not knowing why white spots may appear on the nail plate, whatever a person comes up with to explain such a phenomenon. Various superstitions and false teachings are used. So, according to some signs, white spots on the nails can promise a happy life or an early gift. Sometimes it is even recommended not to cut the nail on the “fateful” finger in order to speed up the moment of gaining benefits. In palmistry, a local change in the color of the nail is considered as signs by which one can read the past and future of a person. Both the shape and size are taken into account, and even the direction of movement of the mark during the growth of the nail.

There are many such examples, but they have nothing to do with the real causes of the problem. In fact, this is a pathological change in the nail plate, called leukonychia. Allocate its limited and total forms.

Limited leukonychia is the appearance of one or more spots on one, maximum two fingers. The total form is accompanied by a complete defeat of one or all nails at once. Depending on the causes of leukonychia, the spots differ in:

  • size;
  • quantity;
  • form.

Such pigmentation is associated with a violation of the process of keratinization of the nail plate, leading to the fact that air bubbles appear inside its individual sections. The causes of such violations are both external and internal factors. Hereditary leukonychia is also possible. Scientists have found that it is transmitted by both autosomal dominant and recessive inheritance.

Trauma as the simplest explanation for leukonychia

Trauma as the simplest explanation for leukonychia

Trauma is one of the most common causes of white spots. In this case, the mechanical action can be directed to the nail matrix covered by the skin, or to the nail plate itself. Often the appearance of mysterious spots is preceded by:

  • a blow to the finger, for example, with a hammer;
  • the habit of biting your nails regularly;
  • the habit of tapping nails on the table;
  • frequent manicure, the habit of peeling off the varnish;
  • wearing tight shoes.

After an injury, spots on the nails most often do not appear immediately, so it is not always possible to find a causal relationship. Outwardly, post-traumatic pigmentation is one or more round marks located on any part of the nail plate. As the nail grows, the spots move towards the edge until they grow long enough to be trimmed.

Leukonychia in case of poisoning, drug treatment

Among other likely causes of white spots are poisoning, drug treatment. For example, the process of keratinization of nail tissues can be disrupted by:

  • taking drugs from the group of sulfonamides — antimicrobial agents used in the treatment of diseases caused by bacterial infections;
  • undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

Special attention deserves heavy metal poisoning, in particular, lead or arsenic. Brazilian scientists, together with Swiss scientists, described a case when a teenage girl took a homeopathic remedy with inorganic arsenic for 4 years. The content of the hazardous substance was extremely low, but even this was enough for the development of symptoms such as nausea, abdominal cramps, impaired concentration, headache, etc. Leukonychia was also noted among the characteristic signs of poisoning.

Against the background of taking certain medications and heavy metal poisoning, white spots on the nails appear in the form of stripes located perpendicular to their growth line.

Diseases that cause leukonychia

Diseases that cause leukonychia

White spots on the nails can occur due to certain diseases. This rarely happens. Possible reasons include:

  • iron deficiency anemia;
  • kidney disease;
  • liver pathology;
  • heart failure;
  • increased thyroid function;
  • dermatological diseases (including psoriasis, eczema).

Scientists believe that a careful examination of the condition of the nails should be an invariable part of the initial examination of any patient. Not only white spots, but also other external changes can indicate diseases. For example, the so-called Terry’s nails (matte white nail plates with dark edging around the edge) can be a sign of cirrhosis of the liver, chronic renal or congestive heart failure.

No less likely is a visual change in pigmentation with a deficiency of vitamins and trace elements. Thus, the nails can be affected, for example, by a lack of zinc or calcium.

Multiple dot spots can occur against the background of allergic reactions. Mainly on nail polishes or nail polish removers.

Onychomycosis: fungal infection of the nails

A fungal infection of the nails is another reason for a partial or complete change in their color. The disease, called onychomycosis, is caused by yeast and mold fungi, dermatomycetes. Onychomycosis is on the list of the first most common diseases of the skin and its appendages. The risk of its development is increased by various pathologies:

  • venous insufficiency;
  • lymphostasis;
  • Raynaud’s syndrome;
  • obesity;
  • diabetes;
  • foot deformity, etc.

In most cases, onychomycosis affects the fingers and toenails. But a fungal infection of the nails on the hands is also possible. According to the type of development of the disease, there are:

  • normotrophic onychomycosis, in which only the color of the nail plate changes, and its shape and thickness remain the same for a long time;
  • the hypertrophic type of the disease is accompanied by a noticeable thickening of the nail, its tarnishing, deformation;
  • with the onycholytic type of fungal infection, the nail becomes dull, acquires a gray-brown color, rather quickly separates from the nail bed.

White spots with onychomycosis can be an early sign of the development of the disease. Therefore, having discovered them, it is necessary to carefully monitor the condition of the nails, eliminating signs of the spread of the lesion.

Dermatovenereology. National leadership. Short edition / ed. Yu. S. Butova, Yu. K. Skripkina, O.L. Ivanova // M. : GEOTAR-Media 2013

Damage to the nails (onychosis) in the practice of an internist / Lomonosov K.M., Tsykin A.A., Ivanov O.L. // Therapeutic archive 2007

Features of the treatment of fungal infections of the skin and its appendages in risk groups. / Burova S.A. // Clinical dermatology and venereology 2014

Systemic therapy of onychomycosis (manual for physicians) / Sergeev A.Yu. 2000


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