ZocdocAnswersWhy do I have white spots on my fingernails?

Question

Why do I have white spots on my fingernails?

I am a 38 year old woman and I am not sure why I have these spots on my fingernails. Since I was about 10 years old, I noticed that I had spots on my nails. It wasn't from an injury to my hand or anything like that. They would come and go. They never went away completely. When I was in my 20's I had heard that if you had a zinc deficency that it would cause it, so I took zinc supplements for a while. It didn't really do anything to help make them go away. They have gotten better since I have gotten older, but they are always on my thumbs and index fingers, which is weird. My other fingers don't always have them. They stay there and don't fade or disappear. Is there anything that I can do to get rid of them completely?

Answer

These white spots are called leuconychia. They are not a serious medical problem and they generally do not require treatment. The exact causes of leuconychia are not always clear. In most cases they probably result from minor trauma to the nail matrix (the cells under the cuticle that manufacture the new nail) or air bubbles getting under the nail bed. Things that can cause this include accidentally bumping or hitting your nails while going about your normal work. More commonly, nail biting or picking at the cuticles may be a factor. Although there is a lot of perception, especially on the internet, that white spots are a sign of a nutritional deficiency, this is not usually the case. Although it is true that zinc deficiency can cause white spots like this, zinc deficiency is quite rare. Minor trauma to the nails, as I mentioned, and probably genetic factors are more likely to be the major players here. In addition to taking care of your nails and avoiding picking or cutting your cuticles and nail biting, there is not much else you can do for this problem. Fortunately, however, you can rest assured that it is probably just a cosmetic issue that doesn't say anything about your underlying health.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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