WHITE SPOTS IN FINGERNAILS – About myths & the true causes!
October 6, 2010
White spots are probably the most common ‘abnormality’ that can be observed in fingernails. Many people associate them with calcium deficiency, but the truth is that usually they do not relate to any health problem at all! In medical science white spots in fingernails are also known as ‘leukonychia punctata’ – which related to the presence of nucleated keratinocytes (contrary: narrow white lines in the nails are known as ‘transverse leukonychia’). Usually white spots are caused by random minor trauma – which also explains why they are relatively common in the hands of children!
Zinc deficiency? – Yep!
Sometimes white spots can indicate a zinc deficiency!
White spots can sometimes be associated with a zinc deficiency - this was e.g. pointed out in a 1974 study, titled: ‘Fingernail white spots: possible zinc deficiency‘.
But in general, one should not expect to find a zinc deficiency when a person has only a few white spots. Because actually, a number of conditions can arise from a lack of zinc. One of the most important, which also lead to its discovery, was the stunting of growth and the lack of sexual development in adolescent boys; adding zinc to the diet brought about a rapid improvement. Skin complaints such as dermatitis and a condition called acrodermatitis in babies may result from deficiency, and there may be slow healing of burns and wounds. So zinc deficiency may show up as white spots or bands on fingernails, but probably only when other conditions manifest as well!
Calcium deficiency? – Nope!
White spots do NOT indicate a calcium deficiency!
The Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports: “There is no evidence to support a relationship between the white flecks and calcium or any other nutritional deficiency. Of course it is possible that people who have white flecks in their fingernails may coincidentally be deficient in calcium. White spots in fingernails may result from minor damage caused by bumping the nails into hard surfaces like bench tops or machinery. These white flecks are different from the white bands that are observed in nails of some undernourished children in developing countries, and in people who have low blood protein levels for various reasons.”
NOTICE: Thin, brittle nails can be caused by calcium deficiency!
Iron deficiency? – Nope!
White spots do NOT indicate an iron deficiency!
NOTICE: Spoon-shaped nails (see photo below) may be a clue to a thyroid deficiency or iron deficiency anemia!
So, despite the many assocations – most of the stories about ‘white spots’ in fingernails are myths that are proably based on false anecdotal evidence!
SUGGESTION FOR FURTHER READING:
• The clubbing nail: developments, treatment & prevention!
• Hands on lung cancer: the clubbing fingernail!
• Fingernail disorders & medical hand analysis!
• What are the most common nail disorders?
• Megan Fox has a ‘clubbed thumb’ – not to be confused with ‘fingernail clubbing’!