Spoon nails may be a sign of long-standing iron deficiency! Know all about it

Got spoon nails? Well, i's a nail problem called Koilonychia that shouldn't be ignored. So, find out more about it.
clean nails
It is important to keep your nails clean! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Updated: 17 Oct 2023, 18:46 pm IST
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If our nails turn pale or half pink and half white or greenish black, a trip to a clinic is a must. It’s true that nails tend to give clues about our health. It’s not just the colour, but also shape and texture of finger or toenails that can suggest that we have an underlying health condition. Coming to shapes, Koilonychia (spoon nails) is something that affects the shape of nails. So, if you see your nails curving like a spoon, it means you have spoon nails! Read on to know all about Koilonychia (spoon nails) and if it is a sign of a health condition.

HealthShots connected with Dr Navya P, Consultant Dermatologist, Manipal Hospital, Yeshwanthpur, Bengaluru to find out about Koilonychia (spoon nails), which is a term derived from the Greek word Koilos meaning hollow and Onikh, which means nail.

spoon nails
Spoon nails can mean your body needs iron! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What are spoon nails?

The meaning of the condition is in the name itself. Dr Navya says it is a condition where the nails become concave shaped, resembling the body of a spoon. When your nails get affected, they become thin and brittle. You will also see that the centre of the nail is depressed and the edges are inverted. The shape can be more clearly observed from the sides and can affect both the finger as well as the toe nails. Spoon nails take their own sweet time to form. It begins with flattened nails, and then eventually, an indentation forms. It becomes so deep that it can even hold a drop of water or some liquid on your nail bed!

Causes of spoon nails

Spoon nails or Koilonychia can be present either at birth or could develop later in life. At birth, it is most commonly seen in big toes. It usually regresses by 9 to 10 years of age, as the nail hardens, says the expert. Spoon nails can be hereditary too. But this condition is most commonly seen in long-standing iron-deficiency (signs and symptoms of iron deficiency), which could be due to:

• Malnutrition
• Worms
• Malignancy

Spoon nails can even be a sign of another medical condition or disease such as:

• Diabetes mellitus
• Heart disease
• Hemochromatosis (iron overload)
• Psoriasis (how psoriasis us linked to stress)
• Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).

spoon nails
Have iron-rich diet to have healthy nails. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How to treat spoon nails?

Once you deal with the iron deficiency problem, the nail abnormality returns to normal within four to six months of iron correction. If it is hereditary or idiopathic, that is, when no specific cause seen, then unfortunately, there is no treatment. You can have iron supplementation as part of spoon nails treatment, in cases where iron deficiency is seen. Most importantly, the underlying cause needs to be evaluated and treated accordingly, stresses Dr Navya.

Ways to prevent spoon nails

You need to mainly target the iron stores in your body if you want to prevent getting spoon nails. Your diet should have iron-rich foods such as dates, beans, green leafy vegetables, meat and animal products. Also, eating vitamin C-rich food such as citrus fruits is important. So, start eating oranges, lemons, apples and pineapples.

Next time, you see your nails changing shape, don’t take it lightly.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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