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What Does It Mean if Your Nails Are White?

White nail causes

White nails are indicative of any or a combination of the conditions including anemia, overuse of nail polish, weak nails, kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and liver disease.

The white nails are indicative of any or a combination of the conditions below

  • Anemia or low red cell count
  • Overuse of nail polish and nail polish remover
  • Weak nails as a result of dietary calcium and protein deficiency
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Liver disease, such as hepatitis

Whole nail whitening is generally seen in cases of kidney problems, where there is protein deficiency in the body. When whitening is associated with thickened nail plates, the cause could be a fungal infection. Some white spots of nails are indicative of previous trauma to the nail plate.

Color changes

Very pale nails

  • Healthy nails are generally pink.
  • Very pale nails may indicate illnesses, such as anemia, congestive heart failure or liver disease.
  • Poor nutrition also may be a culprit.

White spots

  • Random white spots that appear on the nails are generally harmless and caused by an injury, such as striking the fingertip or repeated trauma to the nails from frequent manicures.
  • Other potential causes include zinc deficiency, calcium deficiency, fungal infections or allergic reactions.

Blue nails

  • Nails may take on a bluish tinge if the body lacks adequate oxygen. Heart disease and emphysema may cause this. You may need a doctor’s attention urgently.

Yellow nails

  • Yellow nails are common and may have various causes, such as nail polish stains, smoking or infections.
  • A fungal infection may cause the nails to thicken, crumble or detach from the nail bed. More serious possibilities include rheumatoid arthritis, respiratory disease, thyroid disease and diabetes.

Dark lines underneath the nail

  • Dark lines that appear beneath the nail could be caused by melanoma, a serious type of skin cancer.

Texture changes

Thin or soft nails

  • Thin or soft nails break or tear easily. They may bend before breaking.
  • Often, these changes are due to exposure to chemicals, such as detergents or nail polish remover.
  • Low levels of B vitamins, calcium or iron also may cause this.

Cracked or split nails

  • Usually, nails split or crack because they are dry or brittle.
  • Surprisingly, dry nails can result from frequently soaking your nails in water while washing dishes, bathing kids or swimming.
  • Nail polish, nail polish remover and alcohol-based hand sanitizers may also contribute.
  • Dry, cracked nails may be linked to thyroid disease.

Peeling nails

  • Nails may peel off in layers in response to trauma, such as using your nails as tools to open packages, scrape hard surfaces or pick at old nail polish.
  • Over soaking nails also can lead to peeling.

Pitted nails

  • Tiny indentations in the nails may be related to conditions (such as psoriasis, which also causes dry, scaly skin patches) or alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.

Spoon nails

  • If your nails look “scooped out” like a spoon, you may have anemia, hypothyroidism or liver problems.

Ridges or ripples

  • Lines that run lengthwise along your nail are harmless.
  • Horizontal lines or grooves that run across the nail indicate that your nail growth is slowed or stopped. Common reasons include high fever, stress, damage to the cuticle or base of the nail and some medications.
  • In some cases, diabetes or peripheral vascular disease may be the cause.

Curved nails

  • Curved or “clubbed” nails happen when fingertips enlarge and the growing nails curve around them.
  • This is a gradual process that often develops over several years and may be inherited. This could also be associated with lung disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease or liver disease.

Ram’s horns

  • Thick, overgrown nails that resemble the horns of a ram may be hereditary or caused by conditions such as psoriasis or poor blood circulation.

Nail separates from nail bed

  • Nails may separate from the nail bed because of injury or infection.
  • The detached nail may turn white with a yellow or greenish tint and may be tender or painful.
  • In some cases, a separated nail may be linked to psoriasis or other illnesses.

Having any of these changes does not mean you have an underlying health condition. However, if you are concerned about your nails, play it safe and call your doctor.


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Medically Reviewed on 3/25/2021


Medscape Medical Reference

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