Ever wonder about those white spots on your fingernails? It’s a condition called leukonychia and it affects many people around the world. You may not be familiar with its technical name, as it’s not very well known. The condition refers to the small white or yellowish spots that appear on your nails. Sometimes, they look like small ‘clouds’ that only appear in certain areas.
These spots have been the stuff of urban legends. In ancient times, it was thought that these blemishes corresponded with every lie you told. Less outlandish is the idea that they represent a deficiency of calcium in your body.
How true are these theories?
Even if these legends or theories sound convincing to you, in reality, they’re nonsense. Unsightly though they may be, these white spots tend to appear in response to ‘an inflammatory process or trauma in the nail’s quick that caused changes in the keratinisation process’ – or so explains Dr Pablo Unamuno, Department Head of Dermatology in the Clinical Hospital of Salamanca and a member of the Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. ‘The nail grows a millimetre every 10 days; so when you see a mark in the middle of the nail, that means that the problem occured two or three months ago.’
Furthermore, Dr Rosa Senan says that slight blows to the nails – whether caused by rough or aggressive manicures, a nail biting habit or poorly cut cuticles – can cause small spots to appear.
Is there any treatment?
At present, there is no real type of treatment for leukonychia. All you can do is wait for your nail to grow until you can cut the part with the spot on it off. Can’t wait until then? You’ll just have to camouflage it with dark nail varnish.
If there are only small discolourations on your nail, don’t worry. Do stay vigilant, however. If you see a line that goes from one side to the other, it could be that you have damaged your nail. In this instance, you should see your GP so they can refer you to a dermatologist who can diagnose the problem. It’s a good idea to visit your GP because the nail may begin to significantly darken or lighten. According to Professor Unamuno, ‘In this case, the problem isn’t in the nail but rather in the nail bed (underneath the nail) and can alert you to an underlying illness.’
Tips to help you avoid these strange spots
Some simple tips will help you to avoid these spots. They are:
- Stay properly hydrated, especially with water.
- Don’t clean your nails vigorously with harsh brushes.
- Follow a balanced diet.
- Don’t clean your nails too often or too aggressively.