Medical professionals shatter the commonly held belief that white spots on nails always indicate health problems.
“Calcium deficiency causing white spots on nails is the most common myth, followed by zinc deficiency,” said dermatologist Dr. Jessica Krant. “The truth is that white spots are common and harmless and don’t indicate any specific vitamin deficiency at all.”
Sometimes they can be caused by injuries, but the spots -- also known as leukonychia -- are only temporary.
“Most of the time the white spots simply are a sign of some past injury to the matrix (base) of your nails,” explains holistic health guru Dr. Andrew Weil. “By the time the white spot shows up (about six weeks after the injury) you’ve probably forgotten all about banging or knocking your fingers.”
He adds that sometimes the spots can be from excessive pressure applied during a manicure or an allergic reaction to nail polish. Infection can also be a cause.
Although for the most part these spots are nothing to worry about and do go away, sometimes it can indicate something more serious.
“Watch out for dark marks," warns Dr. Marsha Gordon, professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine." If you recently hurt your hand (say, in a car door), don’t worry. But if not, and you see a black, brown, or purple band on your nail, it could be a sign of skin cancer. See a doctor right away.”
Your nails can also indicate serious health problems through other signs that are not spots.
“Ice pick-like depressions in the nails (nail pitting) are common in people who have psoriasis -- a condition characterized by scaly patches on the skin,” Mayo Clinic reports. ”Nail pitting can also be related to connective tissue disorders, such as Reiter's syndrome, and alopecia areata -- an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.”
Nail clubbing -- or what Mayo Clinic describes as “when the tips of the fingers enlarge and the nails curve around the fingertips” -- can be a sign of lung disease or AIDS.