White spots on the nails (leukonychia) – a change in the nail plate, characterized by the appearance of dotted, stripe-like or extensive areas of white color. White spots on the nails can be not just a harmless cosmetic defect, but indicate serious health problems. To find out the causes of white spots on the nails, it is necessary to conduct a diagnosis, including a consultation with a dermatologist, a study of the spectral analysis of nails for trace elements, scraping from nail plates for pathogenic fungi. In order to eliminate white spots on the nails, it is necessary to influence the cause of their appearance: avoid injury to the nail plate, undergo a course of vitamin therapy, normalize nutrition, etc.
Nails are dense horny plates covering the back surfaces of the terminal phalanges of the fingers and toes. The main function of nails is to protect the soft tissues of the distal parts of the fingers from mechanical damage. The hardness of the nail plate is provided by keratin (mainly cysteine, a sulfur-containing amino acid), and elasticity and shine are given by layers of water and fat. In addition to sulfur, nail plates contain other trace elements – calcium, phosphorus, chromium, selenium, zinc, etc., the presence of which makes nails healthy.
The appearance of nails (as well as hair and skin) is not only an indicator of grooming, but also a sensitive indicator of the state of general health. White spots on the nails, deformation of the nail plates, dyschromia, brittle or flaky nails can tell an experienced diagnostician a lot about the health of the patient in front of him. The condition of the nails reflects the changes that have occurred in the body during the last six months – this is the period required for a complete renewal of the nail plate. Knowing the possible causes of the appearance of white spots on the nails, it is possible to carry out a kind of preliminary diagnosis of various disorders in the body.
Causes of white spots on nails
A lot of folk superstitions and signs are associated with white spots on nails, which have nothing to do with the true reasons for their appearance. The formation of white pigmentation is based on a violation of the process of keratinization of the nail plate, as a result of which microscopic air bubbles form between the layers of the nail. Various endogenous and exogenous factors can lead to a violation of the normal keratinization of the nail plate, as a result of which spots or stripes appear, different in shape, size and location.
The most common exogenous cause of the appearance of white spots on the nails is injury to the nail plate. In women, in most cases, mechanical damage to the nail occurs with careless cuticle removal, unprofessional manicure, pedicure or nail extension. In addition, the condition of the nail plate is adversely affected by the coating of nails with poor-quality decorative varnish, constant contact of hands with household and industrial chemicals (detergents and cleaning agents, acetone, paints, solvents, fertilizers, etc.), the habit of biting nails. The appearance of white spots on the toenails is facilitated by wearing too tight shoes.
Very often, white spots on nails appear in people who abuse strict diets, suffer from anorexia, lack trace elements (calcium, zinc, iron) and vitamins (A, E, C). Leukonychia may indicate gastrointestinal diseases (dysbiosis, enteritis, etc.), anemia, heart failure, chronic kidney failure, stress, prolonged depression.
Characteristics of white spots on nails
Depending on the prevalence of the lesion in dermatology, limited and total leukonychia are distinguished. In the first case, there is a partial violation of the keratinization of the nail plate, 1-2 nails are affected; in the second case, there is a complete lesion of one or all nails. According to the shape of white spots, point and stripe-shaped leukonychia are distinguished. White dots on the nails can be small and multiple or large and single; white stripes – horizontal or vertical.
By the appearance and location of white spots on the nails, one can preliminarily judge one or another genesis of leukonychia. So, with the traumatic nature of leukonychia, white spots on the nails are dotted, less often streaky, chaotic; in these cases, total nail damage never develops. After severe nervous shocks, large single white spots usually appear in the center of the nail plate, which disappear as the nail grows. In leukonychia caused by alimentary factors (improper and unbalanced nutrition, lack of proteins), the defect has the form of paired white stripes located across the nail plate.
The deficiency of trace elements and vitamins is indicated by multiple dotted white spots on the nails. As a rule, hypovitaminosis is indicated by other concomitant symptoms: dry skin, hyperkeratosis, cheilitis, increased fatigue, etc. Single white spots on the nails appear in the spring in most people due to seasonal hypovitaminosis. Especially pronounced leukonychia is usually observed in adolescents and pregnant women, whose body experiences increased needs for vitamins and minerals.
In persons suffering from CRF, extensive white spots are located in the lower part of the nail; at the same time, the upper part of the nail plate has a healthy pinkish color. In diseases of the cardiovascular system, white spots appear on the nail plate, which acquires a bluish hue. Total leukonychia is observed in diseases of the digestive system, liver; at the same time, white spots may appear not only on the nails of the hands, but also on the feet.
Diagnosis of white spots on the nails
Health assessment based on the condition of the nail plates is a traditional diagnostic method in Chinese traditional medicine. Experts of oriental medicine believe that the energy channels that open on the fingers of the hands are connected with certain internal organs. That is why the changes occurring in the body, as in a mirror, are reflected on the surface of our nails. A sign of physical and spiritual health are smooth, even nail plates that have a matte or slightly shiny surface, pink color and correct shape. If white spots appear on the nails at the first stage, it is advisable to contact a dermatologist, who, if necessary, will recommend consultations with other specialists – a gastroenterologist, a nephrologist, a cardiologist, etc. To clarify the state of mineral metabolism, it is advisable to conduct a spectral analysis of nails for trace elements.
Leukonychia must be differentiated from the streaks of Mei that occur when poisoning with arsenic or thallium. These stripes have a white-blue color, a transverse arrangement and a width of 5 mm. It is also necessary to exclude onychomycosis, which, in addition to white spots on the nails, is characterized by thickening and discoloration of the nail plate, various deformations (ingrown toenail, “bird” nail), crumbling and delamination of the nail. Diagnosis of fungal nail lesions is carried out by a mycologist based on the results of scraping for pathogenic fungi from nail plates.
Treatment of white spots on nails
Elimination of white spots on the nails can be effective only if the cause of their appearance is determined. As general measures, it is recommended to avoid nervous shocks, normalize the work and rest regime, enrich the diet with vegetables, fruits, vegetable and animal proteins. With the problem of white spots on the nails, taking vitamins, micro- and macroelements will be useful, which will eliminate the deficiency of missing substances in the body.
In case of leukonychia, which is not associated with general diseases, you can contact a beauty salon for local nail treatment with the help of professional care products, therapeutic hand and foot baths, hand and foot massage. In addition to salon treatment at home, you can perform baths with sea salt; rub a mixture of warmed olive oil with lemon juice, an oil solution of vitamin A, fish oil, nourishing creams into your nails. In case of a fungal lesion, course medication and local nail treatment are prescribed and carried out by a mycologist.
By themselves, the former spots on the nails do not pose a threat to health. However, their appearance in some cases may indicate a serious problem in the body, so this symptom should not be ignored. It is wrong to “mask” white spots on the nails with a layer of decorative varnish. On the contrary, when they appear, you should temporarily abandon nail manicure and undergo a diagnosis from a specialist.
When working with chemicals, hands must be protected with gloves. In salon care of hands and feet, it is better to give preference to establishments with a good reputation, gentle procedures and well-known cosmetic brands. To avoid the appearance of white spots on the nails, proper nutrition, taking vitamins will help. With total leukonychia, first of all, it is necessary to exclude diseases of internal organs.