White Spots on Nails: Common Causes and Remedy

by Thomas Martin
white spots on nails

Many people often have white spots on nails. It seems quite common, and except for affecting the appearance of nails, the condition is mostly harmless. Unless you feel uncomfortable with the looks of such spotted nails, there is no reason to worry, as the spots often go away on their own. As nails keep growing, the spots gradually disappear due to regular nail trimming. Leukonychia is the medical term for white spots on fingernails that can happen on the nails of your hands and feet. An injury to the nail matrix is one of the most common causes of white spots appearing on nails, and there are also other causes for such nail discoloration. 

Not all white spots on nails are the same

Going by the literal meaning or description of nail discoloration, the condition manifests in small circular spots on nails but isn’t the only form of leukonychia. The spotting can take different shapes, too, and there is a simple explanation about how it happens. 

Punctuate leukonychia – Small isolated white spots spread across the nail indicate punctuate leukonychia.

Longitudinal leukonychia – If white bands run parallel to the length of nails, then it is longitudinal leukonychia. This type of nail discoloration has another name – Terry’s nail.

Transverse leukonychia – When white bands run across the nail plate, these are Meuhrcke’s lines or transverse leukonychia.

Why Do Nails Have a Natural Light Pink Color?

Nails consist of several layers of keratin that are tightly pressed together to give a composite transparent appearance so that the nail bed underneath remains visible. The color of the nail bed gives a light pink tinge to nails. However, if the keratin layer undergoes damage due to injury, it can loosen the keratin layer, and the separation allows air to enter the gap and makes the area look white.

Causes for white spotting on nails

Besides physical injury to nails, some medical conditions can cause white spots on fingernails.

Injury – Injury or nail trauma causes white spots only but not the other types of nail discoloration that appear as bands. Even minor nail trauma can result in white spots, and those who have the habit of nail biting are the most affected by white spots.

Other forms of nail injury include exposure of your hands and feet to harmful chemicals. Many cleaning agents used for housekeeping or kitchen upkeep might contain chemicals that can damage nails.

Mineral deficiencies – Healthy nails need an adequate supply of minerals like zinc, magnesium, iron, calcium, copper, and sodium that the body receives from the foods we consume. Insufficient minerals in the body cause white spots and white bands.

Medical conditions – Heart failure, diabetes, and liver disease can cause white spots or bands on nails. If the top half of the nail turns white, it can be a sign of chronic kidney disease. Nail changes and white spots can happen after chemotherapy, too. In rare cases, systemic diseases that affect several systems of the body can cause white bands of spots on nails. Some skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis can damage nails.

Other Causes

Fungal infections – Onychomycosis is a fungal infection that affects nails and causes nail damage visible in the form of white spots or bands. The fungus usually penetrates through the layers of keratin in nails. The white coloration of nails caused by the fungus can gradually turn brown or yellow. Nail fungus mostly affects toenails, but it can also affect fingernails. Nail fungus affects men more than women, as revealed in some studies, and the fungus Candida affects fingernails, while dermatophytes is the fungus affecting toenails.

Allergic reactions – Some nail products like acrylic-based nail polish, nail paint remover, and nail gloss or gel might adversely affect your nails because of allergic reactions to the chemicals present in these products. The allergic reaction can lead to white spots.

Why Do White Spots Appear on Nails?

Leukonychia, another name for white spots, is a discoloration that develops on the nails. They are usually white and might appear as larger, irregular shapes or as tiny dots. They can affect toenails as well. However they usually affect fingernails.

Common Myths Busted

Let’s dispel a myth about white patches on nails before getting into the truth. These patches don’t necessarily indicate a calcium deficit, despite what the general public believes. White spots are rarely a sign of insufficient calcium in the diet, despite the fact that nutritional deficits can affect the health of nails.

When Should You Consult a Doctor?

White patches on nails usually don’t injure the nail and will ultimately disappear as it grows. Nonetheless, there are some situations in which getting medical help is advised:

whether the white spots continue or get worse with time.
if additional symptoms, such as alterations in the texture, colour, or shape of the nails, accompany the spots.
if the area around the nail hurts, swells, or becomes red. 

Treatment and Prevention

Depending on the underlying cause, there are many treatments for white patches on nails. Sometimes it’s enough to just let the nail grow out in circumstances of stress or injury. Your doctor might advise against using specific nail products or antifungal medications if you have a fungal infection or allergic response. 

To prevent white spots on nails, prevention is essential. To reduce the chance of allergic reactions, take good care of your nails, stay away from trauma or injury, and use mild nail care products.


To maintain healthy and spot-free nails, ensure a mineral-rich diet of leafy, green vegetables and fruits, and choose nail care products free from allergens. Read the label carefully to ensure that the ingredients have nothing that can cause allergy, which eventually might lead to white spots on nails. If you suspect that fungal infection is the cause of nail discoloration, you should consult a doctor.

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