White spots on nails can be signs of vitamin or mineral deficiencies, but also symptoms of serious diseases. What causes white spots on nails and how they can be prevented?
Do white spots on your nails worry you? Usually, such stains occur due to aggressive manicure practices or the use of acrylic gel, but less often they may be caused by nutritional deficiencies or various diseases.
The spots may take the form of small white dots or horizontal or vertical lines on the nail surface, a condition known as partial leukonychia.
Find out below what causes white spots on nails and how they can be prevented.
Why white spots appear on nails
White spots on the nail surface can appear due to several causes, but the most common is trauma to the nail material through incorrect nail trimming, biting or banging (with a hammer, for example) or catching your fingers in a doorway.
Other possible causes of white spots on the nails can be:
- Metal poisoning (arsenic or lead)
- Taking sulphonamides (drugs used to treat bacterial infections)
- Iron, zinc or calcium deficiency
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Kidney disease
- Heart failure
- Diabetes mellitus
- Malabsorption of dietary protein
- Fungal infections (onychomycosis)
- Allergic reactions to acrylic gel, nail varnish or acetone
- Hereditary diseases (Bart-Pumphrey, Buschkell-Gorlin, Bauer or Darier syndrome)
To establish the exact diagnosis, the doctor may request blood tests or various imaging investigations.
Treatment depends on the cause that has been diagnosed. If the white patches on the nails are the result of one of the above traumas, they will go away on their own over time and no treatment is necessary. In fact, there is no specific treatment for such a symptom.
If the white patches are caused by a medical condition, the treatment will target the cause, not the effect. For example, if white spots are caused by an allergic reaction to acetone, acrylic gel, or a particular nail varnish, it is recommended to avoid using these products.
If it is a fungal infection, the doctor will recommend specific topical medicines or ointments, which can be taken for 1 to 3 months.
How to prevent white spots on nails
To reduce the risk of developing white spots on the nails, the following precautions are recommended:
- Avoid cutting your nails down to the flesh and chewing them
- Have a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, especially iron, zinc, and calcium
- Avoid excessive use of potentially irritating products (acetone, nail polish, acrylic gel)
- Use a base coat to protect your nails before applying nail polish or false nails