Believe it or not, the health of your toenails could tell you a lot about your health. Your skin, hair and nails are often the first parts of your body to show the tell-tale signs that your health is not quite right, and when you’re under the weather or down with some bug or cold / flu, you’ll notice your skin looks grey and lifeless, your hair is limp, and your nails aren’t the same color they usually are.
Nail abnormalities are a common occurrence and if you have white spots on toenails, you’ll probably find it’s not a serious cause for concern. There are a number of things that can cause it, mostly diet and lifestyle related, and once you’ve figured out the root cause, you can then take active steps to treat it and stop it from happening again in the future.
White Spots of Toenails – Causes
There are a number of causes of white spots on toenails and although many of them are relatively minor situations, easily treated with some time, patience and perhaps medications, toenail issues can be a sign of something more serious.
If the entire nail seems to have gone an off-white color, or the spots are covering the entire nail, it could be that you have a fungal infection, something easily treated with medication, both prescribed and over-the-counter.
It could also have a more serious cause, something called Terry’s nails. This is when there is a problem with the nail bed and blood circulation, and the nail becomes white and then falls off when the circulations has been killed completely, thus killing off the surrounding tissues.
Terry’s nails is more commonly associated with dark tipped nails, and also dark patches or discoloration, and can be a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition including diabetes, liver, heart and kidney failure, anemia (iron deficiency), malnutrition, over-active thyroid, chemotherapy and hormonal problems.
If you have white spots on one half of your nail, or your nail is half white and half brown, you may find that you are having kidney problems. This is a pretty serious cause and does need urgent medical attention and although the link isn’t really understood by doctors or scientists, it has been suggested that kidney failure could lead to problems with the small blood vessels found in the bed of the finger and toenails.
The same nail pattern and discoloration is also symptomatic of chemotherapy, and is also seen in those suffering with the AIDS virus.
If you have white stripes or stripes of spots running along your nail, it could be a sign that you are suffering again with malnutrition but this time, with low protein levels. The lines you can see are known as Muehrcke’s lines and they don’t generally cause any problems, or leave grooves or indents on the nail either.
Eat more chicken breast and other protein-rich foods and within a few days, you’ll start to notice the white spots and stripes getting better.
If the white spots are following a trauma such as stubbing your toe or wearing very uncomfortable shoes that rub all night, it could be a case that the nail or nail bed has become damaged and suffering with a loss of blood to the area. In cases such as this, the nail will normally grow out fine and the problem won’t last for very long. If the problem persists, or the nail doesn’t grow back ‘normal’, you should seek medical advice to ensure you haven’t caused more serious underlying damage.
In fact, if your shoes are rubbing on your toenails, you should get better fitting shoes. By wearing inappropriate shoes or ill-fitting shoes, you are causing trauma and damage as well as adding pressure to your toes, the bones and the nails too. If you’re not really sure what shoe size you are, get yourself measured and remember that width of the shoe is just as important as length. You may need a wider-fitting shoe if you keep finding a toenail problem.
White Spots on Toenails – Treatments
The treatment you opt for to combat the white spots on toenails will very much depend on the root cause of the symptom.
If you have a fungal infection, an over-the-counter topical treatment can be used to treat the problem although you may need to seek medical advice beforehand. Many anti-fungal treatments can have the same effect as hormones and compounds naturally released by the liver, you may need monitoring to ensure liver function remains at peak.
If you are worried about using anti-fungal treatments, or you have liver problems and therefore can’t rely on the anti-fungal treatments, there are a number of home remedies you can use to try and combat the white spots on toenails.
Many of the things you’ll find in your kitchen will offer some sort of anti-fungal or antibacterial properties and just one of the ingredients you should look towards is vinegar.
Vinegar is made up of acetic acid and this can help to decrease any microbial growth and reduce the symptoms. You can use a soak by mixing equal parts of vinegar and water, and you can either soak a cotton wool ball and hold on the affected area, or hold the affected area in a container of the liquid.
Tea Tree Oil is another great tool to have in the home because of it’s many properties, antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-fungal to name but a few. A completely all-natural home remedy for the white spots on toenails, it will help to kill of that microbial growth once again, whilst giving the affected area a good cleanse. To use, simply pour a few drops of tea tree oil (suitable for skin contact) on a cotton wool ball and wipe over the affected areas. You could also consider adding a few drops of skin-safe tea tree oil to your bath, and also in a carrier oil or lotion to moisturize into your feet.