If you encounter small white spots on your nails, then you may be curious about what makes these occur. This condition is known as Leukonychia and can take a few different forms and have several causes. In the vast majority of cases it is harmless and can be ignored as the spots will move with the nail growth and eventually disappear. More persistent forms of the condition can have more serious causes though, so here are some of the types of Leukonychia you may encounter along with the common reasons they appear.
Small white dots that appear randomly on just a few of your nails are usually the result of some sort of mechanical stress on the nail matrix where the nail grows from. This is harmless and the spots will disappear as the nail grows out.
Short to medium lines that appear at right angles to the nail growth are known as Leukonychia Striata. These usually have similar causes as Leukonychia Punctata and will grow out naturally. If they reoccur persistently and have no known mechanical cause (nail biting, hard habitual tapping of the fingers, impacts against the fingers, etc) then they may indicate a more serious problem such as heavy metal poisoning or cirrhosis of the liver.
If all your nails are white over most or all of the nail, then this is most likely a symptom of Leukonychia Totalis. This is usually caused by hypoalbuminaemia, which is a shortage of Albumin globular proteins in your system. This may indicate an issue with your liver or kidneys amongst other causes, and you should see a doctor for more information. If only one fingernail is all white and you recently did some damage to that finger, then it is likely just a matter of temporary impact damage to the base of the nail.
Small to medium sized white dots that occur persistently on most or all of your nails are referred to as Leukonychia Partialis and may indicate the onset of Leukonychia Totalis. If this condition continues to occur, then you should see a doctor for more information.
Longitudinal leukonychia consists of small white lines about a millimeter in length that appear under the plate of the nail and run in the direction of nail growth. If you only encounter a few of these then it’s probably just a matter of mechanical stress to the nail matrix and can be ignored. If they appear in abundance on multiple nails, then this may be an indication of Darier’s disease and you should probably discuss this on your next visit to your doctor.
So, while white spots on your nails are usually harmless by themselves, they may be a symptom of a more serious problem if they cover a large part of the nail or occur persistently on multiple fingers. Most of the time they are simply the result of the nail matrix being temporarily damaged by an impact, but this may also indicate bad habits such as nail biting or habitual finger tapping that you should try to correct. If your daily nail care shows more serious nail discoloration that you can’t connect with any physical cause, then discuss the issue with your doctor as it may be an early warning of some deeper issue.