What Does It Mean When You Get White Spots On Your Fingernails?

Everyone has likely noticed little white dots or lines on their fingernails on occasion, and it can seem like they come from nowhere and could potentially fuel fears of a problematic medical condition. So what do they actually mean? Some may have heard the myth that the white lines on your fingernails means you’re calcium deficient, but it’s nearly always more innocuous than that (via Women’s Health).

The medical term for them is leukonychia, and Dr. Melissa Piliang, dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told Parade, “The white spots come from changes to the protein in the keratin that make up the nail plate.”

It most often comes from an injury of some kind to your finger or nail bed, and it can take time for the marks to appear. As Dr. Piliang explains, “Since it is the finger and not the visible nail itself that is damaged, you may not even remember injuring your nail because it may have happened many weeks before” (via Parade). The white spots can also appear because of acrylic nail manicures (via Parade).

Getting rid of the white spots usually just takes patience

Nail biting is also a common cause, and podiatrist Margaret Dabbs told Women’s Health that you’re more likely to see them “if the nails are thin as the nail provides less protection to the nail bed.” Following a healthy diet helps keep your nails healthy and nail beds protected, so the old wives tale that you should eat more calcium kind of makes sense to help with white spots, but upping your calcium intake by itself isn’t likely to make them go away. It’s more than likely just a matter of time. 

It will take patience to get rid of them. The white spots grow out over six to nine months, as the nail grows (via DermNet NZ). Dr Rekha Tailor, medical director and founder of Health & Aesthetics, told Women’s Health that if the spots show up infrequently, there’s no cause at all for alarm. “However, if the spots are persistent or getting worse it’s advisable to seek medical advice,” Tailor says. The link to potential deficiency is a rare one, though it does exist, so also visit the doctor “if more than half your nail turns white, especially if you do not remember injuring the nail,” recommends Dr. Piliang (via Parade).

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