Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What are the white spots in my fingernails?"
In just about all of my fingernails, I get these white spots that eventually grow their way out. What are they?
These white spots that you have are very, very common. In fact most people have them at one time or another. They are called punctate leukonychia (a large word meaning "small white spots under the nails"). Punctate leukonychia may occur for a number of reasons. Very rarely, they are a sign of a serious medical condition, such as an infection, cancer, or liver disease. However, most of the time the leukonychia that are seen with these conditions is "total leukonychia" when the entire nails turns white. Horizontal bands of white or red discoloration which span the entire nail are also more likely to be a sign of something serious. Generally speaking, spots of white discoloration are usually harmless. There is some evidence that punctate leukonychia may be associate with certain nutritional deficiencies, such as a zinc deficiency. However, this is probably an overestimate; most people with punctate leukonychia do not actually need to be tested for vitamin deficiencies. The most common cause of punctate leukonychia is intermittent damage to the nail matrix, where new nail is made. The most common causes of this are frequent manicures and biting the nails. So you may want to discontinue these practices, if you do them, and see if things improve! It's also advisable to see your primary care doctor for a more thorough evaluation.
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