Definition of Leukonychia
As with most medical words, this one is long and confusing, but what is it? Leukonychia is a condition that affects the nails. It typically appears as though the nail changes color. In this condition, the nail can either partially change color or fully change color. It is caused either by systemic problems or by a genetic disorder. The nail has looks like a normal nail; it is shaped like a normal nail, but it turns white.
The white appearance of the nail is caused by cells called “parakeratotoic cells.” These cells are not fully under-developed and contain a bulky nucleus. Inside the nucleus, these cells are known to contain keratohyalins. This slight cellular difference causes the nail to look white.
Different Types of Leukonychia
This type of leukonychia contains two different variations called total leukonychia and partial leukonychia. The difference between the two depends on the appearance of the nail. The difference in appearance is described as completely white or only two-thirds of the way discolored.
- Total Leukonychia – Considered an autosomal dominant condition. This is not the only cause. Other problems may cause this disorder including:
- Cytotoxic Drugs
- Biting your nails
- Partial Leukonychia – Considered only a phase of total leukonychia. While there are many different causes, the most common are:
- Metastatic carcinoma
In total, there are three different types of partial leukonychia.
- Transverse leukonychia – This disorder causes the nail to appear multi-colored. While it occurs in both men and women, it is seen mostly in women’s fingernails. There are many different causes but the most common are:
- Respiratory infections
- High fever
- Punctate leukonychia – This is the most common type of leukonychia. It can occur in the nails of any person and can happen multiple times in their lifetime. In this type of leukonychia, the nail appears to have small white spots that fade over a short period of time.
- Longitudinal leukonychia – Appears as a small white line that is under the nail. It may make the nail appear to be bumpy, while it is actually flat and smooth.
This type of leukonychia is diagnosed when there is a discoloration in the nail due to changes in the nail bed. There are three different forms of this disorder:
- Terry’s nails – This type affects most of the nail and causes most of the nail to be white in color. The rest of the nail will appear pink or brown in color.
- Muehrcke’s nails – This disorder causes the nail to appear as though it has several white bands.
- Half and half nails – This disorder causes the nail to appear white and dull in color. The rest of the nail may appear brown.
Treatment for Leukonychia
The most effective treatment for leukonychia is to treat it at the source. The cause of leukonychia is a zinc disorder which can easily be treated with an over-the-counter supplement. While the nail is affected, you should avoid any contact with chemicals or other substances that may damage them further.
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