Leukonychia is better known as a 'white spots on fingernails'.

Leukonychia is sometimes described as 'white nails'.



What is leukonychia?

Leukonychia is a medical term for white discoloration appearing on nails. The word ‘leukonychia‘ is derived from the Greek words ‘Leuko’ (white) and ‘Onyx’ (nail).

What causes leukonychia?

The most common cause is an injury to the nail root (matrix) where the nail is formed – due to for example: excessive ‘nail tapping’ or slamming in a car door.

There are 2 types of leukonychia:

true leukonychia: small white spots (this is the most common variant);
transverse leukonychia (‘leukonychia striata’): discoloration of the nail in bands or ‘stria’ (also seen in cirrhosis and chemotherapy).

One must also be aware that ‘leukonychia’ in the hands of children (usually not caused by a medical problem).

Leukonychia – also known as a ‘white spotted nails’

PHOTO – An example of ‘white spotted nails’ (leukonychia):

White spotted nails (leukonychia)

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Koilonychia is better known as the ‘spoon nail’

Structure of your fingernail: the nail matrix attaches the finger with the nail plate.

The matrix is an ‘invisible’ part of the fingernail – but nevertheless it’s the most important aspect of the nail because nails grow form the matrix!

The process of a growing nail can be described as follows:

Fingernails are composed largely of keratin – a hardened protein which is also present in your skin and hair! As new cells grow in the nail matrix, the older cells are ‘pushed out’, compacted, and take on the familiar flattened, hardened form of the fingernail.

In An Atlas of DISEASES OF THE NAIL the ‘matrix’ is described as follows:

“The matrix of the nail the germinative epithelium from which the nail is derived. There is controversy about whether the nail bed and nail fold contribute cells to the substance of the nail plate. Regardless of this, the matrix is responsible for the majority of the nail plate substance.

The proximal portion of the matrix lies beneath the nail folds and the distal curved edge can usually be seen through the nail plate as the white lunula. The proximal matrix forms the superfiscial portion of the nail plate and the distal matrix makes the undersurface of the nail plate.”

NOTICE: The so-called ‘root’ of the nail is also known as the germinal matrix.

Example of a nail matrix injury (A) + the repairment (B).

Example of a nail matrix injury (A) + the repairment (B).