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What is Leukonychia and what causes it?

Leukonychia is a medical term for white discolouration appearing on nails. It is derived from the Greek words leuko ("white") and onyx ("nail"). It can also be referred to as ‘white spots’ or ‘lines’.

The condition involves the matrix cells. The white spots, lines or total whitening show the process of keratin synthesis is not complete in the matrix and the isles of the defective cells are growing out with the entire nail plate. The Leukonychia can be placed in all three layers of the nail plate, which is why the condition may take place in any part of the matrix.

There are many types of leukonychia with varying causes, all of which effect how the condition appears on the nail:

Total leukonychia is a rare nail disorder causing whitening to the entire nail plate and is likely to effect all nails. It is often inherited, but commonly caused by trauma to the nail matrix or from medicines such as antibiotics.

True Leukonychia is the most common form of leukonychia, in which small white spots appear on the nails. The condition regularly occurs in children, nail biters or when the matrix is affected. Nutritional and vitamin deficiencies can also be a cause.

Transverse Leukonychia are bands or tiny lines of white discoloration in the nail which run parallel from one nail fold to another. Common causes include chemotherapy, herpes virus and vigorous manicuring or traumatisation to the nail.

Who does it affect?


How can nail technicians help?

Leukonychia should only be diagnosed and cured by medical doctors. However, the presence of white spots is not a contraindication for the safe and professional manicure.

Nail technicians should only use safe methods of manicure with this condition. All dangerous or aggressive techniques should be avoided. Warm procedures, like hot paraffin or hot oil manicure and massage, show nice results.

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