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What Causes White Spots on Fingernails?



White spots on the fingernails can be caused by injury or a nutritional deficiency.

What causes white spots on the fingernails? Most people only look at their fingernails for purposes of attractiveness. Are they clean, well trimmed, and nicely painted? Most people don’t know, however, that changes in the appearance of fingernails can be an indicator of physical problems in the body. White spots on the fingernails are a common occurrence with many myths surrounding the reasons for their appearance.


White spots on the fingernails are called leukonychia, from the Greek leukos for white and onyx for nail. These white spots are a common condition, which can occur for different reasons.


The most common reason for white spots on the nail is from a previous injury to the base of the nail. Most people, when they see a spot on their nail, don’t remember injuring their finger, but since nails grow slowly, the injury likely occurred weeks before. Damage can occur from a simple banging of the finger on a cabinet or from overly vigorous manicuring.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Many myths abound about nutritional deficiencies causing white spots on the nail bed. Both over consumption of calcium as well as too little calcium are common myths of the cause. Other nutritional causes suggested are zinc and iron deficiencies. While no studies have directly shown a link between white spots on the nail and nutritional deficiencies, if you see these spots regularly, ask your doctor to check your zinc and iron levels. If you are a woman of menstruating age, you are at high risk of iron deficiency anemia.


Once a white spot appears on the nail, it can’t be removed. It must eventually grow out, which can take several months. If the white spots bother you, they can always be covered with nail polish. If you have continuing problems with white spots, you need to understand the underlying cause. Are you doing an activity that is causing injury to your nail bed? Are you manicuring too often or too roughly? Do you possibly have a mineral deficiency? Resolve those issues to resolve the continuing presence of white spots on your nails.



“Nail Diseases: MedlinePlus.” National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2011.

“Nail abnormalities: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2011.

“Worried About White Spots on Fingernails? – Dr. Weil.” – Official Website of Andrew Weil, M.D.. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2011.

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