White flecks in nails

Dr Mark Porter / 28 December 2016

Dr Porter advises a reader who is worried about white flecks in the nails.



Q: What is the significance of white flecks in the nails? A friend has suggested it might be because I am not getting enough calcium.

A: In most cases they are of no significance. They are not a sign of calcium deficiency, despite a widely held belief to the contrary.

The most common cause is trauma (knocks and bangs) to the part of the nail bed where new nail is formed (the bit just below the cuticle). Injury here leads to a fault in the nail production resulting in the characteristic white fleck which travels up the nail as it grows. It is particularly common in people like builders who work with their hands, but I have also seen cases resulting from an over-zealous manicure!

Zinc deficiency is another possibility and one that I would suspect this if multiple nails (including the toe nails) were affected. The best way to confirm zinc deficiency is to do a blood test, but you could try zinc supplements (ask your pharmacist) to see if it corrects the problems over the 3 – 6 months required for the flecking to grow out. 

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