You look down at your fingers one day and suddenly there are a few new marks you haven’t seen before. White spots, also known as milk spots are usually semicircular in shape, almost like a crescent moon, but they can be little white dots or straight lines. If you are worried, chances are you are just fine. Small white marks on fingernails are so common that most people will experience them at some point in their lives. It is indifferent to race, sex or ethnicity.
Biggest myth it is due to deficiency
Ask around and the most common answer you will hear is that you have a deficiency of some sort; most commonly a calcium deficiency or a zinc deficiency.
““Calcium deficiency causing white spots on nails is the most common myth, followed by zinc deficiency. The truth is that white spots are common and harmless and don’t indicate any specific vitamin deficiency at all.” Dr. Jessica Krant, Dermatologist Huffington post
This is why many people drink lots of milk and take tons of supplements but still have white spots. When these marks occur, they are known as punctate leukonychia.
Before you panic, Leukonychia is only the medical term for white spots or discoloration of the nails. Like many words, it is derived from two Greek words; leuko meaning “white” and nychia meaning “nails”
It is more common on fingernails but appears on toenails too.
There are two main types of leukonychia, total and partial. Keep in mind however that there are many other subtypes associated with leukonychia.
Leukonychia totalis is just that, a whitening of the entire nail. It is a rare genetic disease treated by finding the root cause. These causes could be any number of things including but no limited to acute liver failure and renal failure.
No need to panic, it’s unlikely that this is the case with you. If you only have white spots or small marks, then you have partial leukonychia.
Partial leukonychia indicates only a partial discoloration of the nails, mostly in the form of white spots, white marks, or white lines. These are usually not harmless and entirely painless.
Under partial leukonychia, there are three subtypes.
Punctate Leukonychia- presents itself in the form of white spots and is the most common form of leukonychia.
Longitudinal leukonychia- when there is a white band going down the nail. This is a rarer form of the condition
Transverse or striate leukonychia- also known as “Mees Lines” where white horizontal line from across the nail.
Causes of white spots due to leukonychia
This is usually the underlying cause of white marks on the fingernails, where an injury occurs on the nail plate or the matrix where the nail grows from.
Injuries can occur due to:
- Cutting it too short
- Nail biting
- Excessive manicuring
- Day to day knocking and banging
- Tight footwear
When an injury happens, it takes weeks to show. So, you may have banged your fingers on the door, but a mark will only appear weeks later.
Drugs or poisoning
This is a rare cause that usually results in transverse or striate leukonychia.
One can get poisoning from metals. Heavy metal poisoning can be caused by metals such as lead or arsenic.
Chemotherapy medication can also cause leukonychia of the nails
Sulphinamides is a medication used to treat infections such as bacterial infections, urinary tract infections, and skin infections. It has been linked to leukonychia.
Treatment for leukonychia
White spots on the fingernails usually grow out with the nail. This takes about 6-8 months as they grow slowly.
To prevent white spots in the future and keep your nails healthy:
- Avoid using too much nail polish remover
- Avoid irritating substances
- Avoid cutting them too short
- Use moisturizer on your hands to prevents your nails becoming too dry.
However, if you feel that they are excessive and a symptom of another disease, visit your doctor immediately.
If not, however, here are some hilarious myths about white nails you can laugh at.
Strange myths about white spots on fingernails
From funny to creepy to just plain bizarre, myths run aplenty. Here are a few for good humor:
- A white spot on your nails out of the blue? Someone is buying you a gift soon.
- Legend says, (origin unknown) that a white spot on the little finger means you are off on a journey soon. Pack your suitcases and wait by the door.
- Generally speaking, they are also a sign of good fortune and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
- Except the Germans, In Germany, white spots on the fingernails are an indicator of how long you have left to live. So, if you have only one, it may be time to get to that bucket list.
- If you have a white spot on your index finger, then in Britain that means you will make a new friend soon. However, a white spot found on the middle finger means an enemy is coming your way, beware!