Understanding White Spots on Nails: Causes and Treatment Options

Understanding White Spots on Nails: Causes and Treatment Options

Understanding White Spots on Nails: Causes and Treatment Options

As a professional nail technician, encountering white spots on a client's nails, known as leukonychia, can raise questions about their origin and implications. While typically harmless, these spots can sometimes signal underlying health issues. This article explores the various causes of leukonychia, treatment options, and when to seek professional advice.

Types and Causes of White Spots on Nails

Leukonychia can manifest in different forms, affecting either part or the entirety of the nail:

  • Leukonychia Totalis: Involves the entire nail and may indicate serious systemic conditions such as liver failure.
  • Leukonychia Partialis: Affects a portion of the nail, categorised further into punctate (small dots), striate (lines parallel to the base), or longitudinal (lines running across).

Common Causes Include:

  1. Injury: Trauma like nail biting or impacts can lead to air trapped beneath the nail layers, resulting in white spots.

  2. Allergies: Reactions to nail products containing irritants or allergens can cause true leukonychia.

  3. Fungal Infections: Pseudoleukonychia occurs when fungi infect the nail, causing it to appear white and potentially scaly.

  4. Underlying Health Conditions: Serious illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, or liver disorders can manifest as leukonychia.

  5. Nutritional Deficiencies: Lack of essential nutrients like selenium or zinc may contribute to nail abnormalities.

  6. Medications and Toxins: Certain medications, chemotherapy drugs, or exposure to toxic substances like arsenic can induce leukonychia.

Diagnosis and Treatment

While minor instances of leukonychia due to trauma may resolve on their own, widespread or persistent white spots warrant medical evaluation:

  • Diagnostic Approaches: Dermoscopy, mycology (nail clipping for fungal testing), or blood tests can help pinpoint underlying causes.

  • Treatment Options: Depending on the diagnosis, treatments may involve antifungal medications for fungal infections or addressing underlying health conditions through medication or lifestyle adjustments.

Preventative Measures

As a professional, you can help clients prevent leukonychia by:

  • Promoting Proper Nail Care: Emphasise gentle nail handling and avoidance of trauma.
  • Educating on Allergies: Advising clients to use hypoallergenic nail products.
  • Encouraging Health Monitoring: Suggest regular health check-ups to detect and manage underlying conditions early.


Understanding the causes of white spots on nails empowers nail technicians to provide informed guidance and support to clients. By recognising potential signs of systemic issues and recommending timely medical consultation when necessary, you can play a crucial role in maintaining both nail health and overall well-being.