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White flecks in nails

Dr Mark Porter / 28 December 2016 ( 20 February 2019 )

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

White flecks in nails
White flecks in nails are not a sign of calcium deficiency.

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. 

Are you getting enough zinc?

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.