White spots or discoloration is a common issue amongst individuals of all age groups and mostly develops around the cuticle of finger nails or toe nails. When we bump our toes on a hard surface, the impact can cause minor damage to the root of the nail, leading to whitish areas that disappear when the nail grows out.
However, in some cases white discoloration or spots under nails is a result of a more serious issue. If the discoloration in your nail does not disappear, increases in size or is associated with changes in the texture of nails (like thickening, yellowing, splitting or separation from nail-bed), you should consult a healthcare professional for an evaluation.
Apart from an obvious nail injury, there are several causes of white spots on toenails listed below that should be evaluated.
- Improperly Fitted Footwear: Improper footwear (use of wrong size, either too big to too small) can cause extra stress or strain on the feet, including the toenails, which can cause damage that may lead to development of white spots.
- Fungal Nail Infection: Some people are more prone to fungal infections than others. For example, individuals who wear shoes for long periods of time, especially in hot humid environments, are prone to develop fungal infections. Toenail fungus can be picked up in damp areas such as public gyms, shower stalls or swimming pools, and can be passed among family members. Athletes and people who wear tight-fitting shoes or tight hosiery that cause trauma to the toes or keep the feet from drying out are at higher risk. The condition can also spread from one toe to another, or to other parts of the body. Other risk factors include abnormal PH level of the skin, not drying off the feet thoroughly after bathing or exercise, and a compromised immune system in someone who has been exposed to a fungus. Diabetics have an increased risk of contracting a toenail fungus because their immune system is compromised. They should have their nails cut and debrided by a podiatrist.
- Nutrient Deficiency: Deficiency of certain nutrients can also be associated with changes in the texture of nails, skin, and hair. White spots on toenails are typically an indication of deficiency of calcium, an essential mineral that is associated with strong bones. In addition, zinc deficiency is also associated with changes in nail and skin.
- Allergy: An allergy to cosmetic products like nail enamels, thinners, nail polish removers and nail hardeners can also cause white spots on toenails because of irritation due to allergens. The allergic response may be limited to nails, but can also include skin surrounding nail surfaces.
How Can I Treat White Spots on My Toenails?
There are many wonderful natural remedies that can be tried before seeking medication to treat the white posts on your nails. The results may not happen as quickly when using natural remedies, but they can be effective over time, and much less toxic to the body.
Tea Tree Oil: The most active ingredients of tea tree oil that is responsible for its anti-fungal properties are 1.8-cineole and terpinen-4-ol. In addition to hindering fungal growth, tea tree oil is also helpful in managing the growth of other microbial agents without causing any damage to nails or surrounding skin. You can use 100% tea tree oil applied topically 3 to 4 times a daily after scraping the fungal lesions.
Vinegar Soaks: The acetic acid in vinegar is responsible for its anti- fungal properties. You can prepare a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water, then soak your feet for 30 minutes once daily to help decrease the fungal or microbial growth.
Dietary Approach: An anti-fungal diet can also help reduce fungal growth in the body overall. Eliminating foods containing sugar or sweeteners, white/processed foods, dairy and anything containing yeast/gluten can be effective. There are many versions of the Candida Diet, each with different variations, and they can be very effective in eliminating fungus from the body.
How Do I Prevent Fungus From Spreading?
Because it is difficult to treat or eradicate toenail fungus, it is a good idea to try to prevent it. It helps to wear protective shoes or sandals in public showers, pool areas and gyms, and to avoid borrowing someone else’s shoes or sharing socks or towels with someone who has toenail fungus. An orthotic device can be used to add cushioning and/or control over-pronation, support the longitudinal arch, and reduce stress on the lower leg muscles. Wash your feet regularly, and dry them thoroughly when they get wet. Wearing nail polish on the toes is not advised because it can seal in fungus and allow it to grow. Keep toenails trimmed, and be sure to disinfect any pedicure tools before using them. If you do develop toenail fungus, see your foot doctor.