- Noticed white spots appear on your toenails that never used to be there?
- Removed your nail polish to find that your nails look more spotty and less healthy?
- Worried about what white spots on the nails mean?
If your toenails are looking spotty, patchy or discoloured, you’re not alone. This is a concern raised by many patients that are worried about the spots progressing to affect the entire nail, spreading to the rest of the toes, and those wanting to restore the appearance of their toenails to one that is clear and healthy.
Here are the top five causes for white marks on toenails.
Fungal Nail Infection
When fungus takes hold of your toenails, it starts feeding on the keratin that your nails are composed of. This causes changes to their appearance, including white spots, streaks and patches. Fungal nail infections have different types and severities. Some may cause your nail to lift away from the underlying nail bed. Once the nail is no longer connected to the nail bed, it will not have the normal pink colour, but will appear white. Others may distort the appearance of the nail so that it becomes white/yellow, flaky and crumbly.
Once the damage is done to the nail it cannot be undone, but you can prevent the damage from continuing and worsening, letting your nail grow out healthy and clear instead. We use antifungal laser treatment to do this – read about how it works here
Leaving Nail Polish On For Too Long
When your nail polish is left on for an excessive amount of time (three weeks and more), or you use nail polish remover very frequently, the nails can become dehydrated, leading to keratin granules. These granules look white and chalky on the surface of the nail.
The similarity in the appearance of these granules to fungal nail infections means that it can be tricky to tell what the real problem is. Your podiatrist can both give you the right diagnosis – and get rid of the keratin granules in one appointment. This is done using a medical burr on the surface of the nail – and the result is instant. These are our clinical podiatry appointments.
Nail Matrix Damage (Leukonychia)
Your nail matrix is present at the base of your nail, where your nail forms and grows. Injury to this area can leave a small, thin white line (‘milk spot’) that will grow out with the nail. This is not dangerous and does not usually cause any harmful symptoms aside from the appearance of the spot. The injury may be from someone standing on your toe, dropping something on your foot, or even wearing tight shoes where your nails constantly hit against the end of the shoe and are pushed back upon.
Damage to your toenails can also cause other changes in their appearance, including distortions in their thickness, shape and the way they grow. If you’re unhappy with the appearance of your toenails and want an instant cosmetic improvement, we help our patients get clear, healthy-looking nails in one appointment using the KeryFlex nail restoration system.
Psoriasis of the Nails
Psoriasis affecting the toenails can cause white, scaly plaques on the nail surface, separation of the nail from the nail bed, enhanced nail speed growth with subsequent damage, and other nail changes. These all affect the appearance of the nail and white patches are often a result. Nail psoriasis is often also mistaken for a fungal nail infection, and vice versa.
The disease process behind nail psoriasis is not well understood, and can affect anyone at any age. It primarily affects the nail matrix at the base of the nail. With psoriatic nails, an accurate diagnosis is the first step to effective care.
Could It Be A Calcium Deficiency?
While we’ve definitely heard the story about white spots meaning a calcium deficiency, the research shows that this is actually very rare, albeit possible. Zinc and calcium deficiencies may cause white spots on the nails, though they should never be the first suspects. Although still uncommon, malnutrition and low blood protein are more likely to cause white spots, as are medical conditions and diseases like kidney failure, heart disease, poisoning, chemotherapy, eczema and more. Speak to your podiatrist or GP if you are concerned that this might be the cause of your nail colour changes.
Treating White Spots On The Nails
Effectively treating white spots on the toenails starts with understanding what has caused the spots to appear in the first place. This is where your local My FootDr podiatry team comes in. Our podiatrists will start with a comprehensive assessment and medical history to understand what has caused the problem, and discuss all your treatment options, including immediately enhancing the appearance of your toenails throughout your care so you can stay confident on your feet.