Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.
It is a medical condition characterized by spoon-shaped nails. It is a component of the nail-patella syndrome, which is a genetic disorder characterized by abnormalities of the kidneys, musculoskeletal system, and other areas of the body. Koilonychia can affect one nail, a few of the nails, or all of the nails. The symptoms of koilonychia include the following: (9)
- The center of the nail looks like it is scooped out.
- The nail is thin and the outer edges are turned up.
- The nails are cracked and the outer layer comes out of the nail bed.
- Abnormal changes in the color, shape, and texture of the nails.
- The nail plate become thin.
- There is pain, especially if the nail gets detached from the nail bed. (1, 2, 3)
Image 1: A patient with koilonychia.
Picture Source: www.healthline.com
Photo 2: A severe form of koilonychia wherein the outer edges are crusted and the surrounding tissues are severely dry. There is also discoloration of the nails.
Image Source: diseasespictures.com
Causes of koilonychia
There is a variety of causes of koilonychia, but the most frequent cause is iron deficiency anemia. Other possible causes include the following:
- Trauma to the nail
- Side effect of chemotherapy or radiation
- Poor absorption of nutrients
- Chronic exposure to detergents and petroleum solvents
- Problems in the thyroid hormone
- Poor nourishment
- Genetic condition (the child may inherit the condition at birth and will develop later on in life, especially if the child is malnourished.)
- Lupus disease
- Diabetes mellitus (4)
- Celiac disease
- Cardiac-related diseases
- Protein deficiency
- Vitamin B deficiency
- Reynaud’s syndrome
- Patella syndrome
- Environmental condition (people who live in a higher altitude are more likely to have koilonychia.) (5, 6, 7)
To accurately diagnose koilonychia, the doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination. The doctor will check for the appearance of the nails. A blood test will also be done to check for iron deficiency or too high level of iron.
If the blood test is negative, then the doctor would suspect that the cause of koilonychia could be due to environmental factors, heredity, or nail damage.
If it is not because of underlying systemic disease, then there is really nothing to worry. The disease itself will not affect your health. (8, 10)
The exact koilonychia cause should be determined before the doctor will start a course of treatment. If it is caused by a specific condition, the doctor will come up with a treatment plan for the disease. If it is cause by anemia, the doctor will prescribe iron supplements. Diet modification is also a significant part of the treatment plan.
You should increase your intake of beans, sea foods, poultry products, pork, red meat, dark green leafy vegetables, and dried fruits like apricots and raisins. If the doctor finds out that your body is deficient of vitamin B12, then there is a need to prescribe vitamin B12.
Make sure you keep your nails clean and short. To prevent drying of the nails, you should keep it well-lubricated by suing oil or skin softener. A skin softening cream and lotion can help improve the texture of your nails. (1, 4, 5)
Home remedies for koilonychia
- Lemon juice – The extract of lemon helps improve the texture of the nails. It also connects brittleness of the nails.
- Essential oil – nail massage using essential oil can help improve the overall condition of the skin and nails. Almond and lavender oil are good skin moisturizers.
- Horsetail herb – it helps restore the silica in the nail bed. It facilitates regrowth of healthy nails and prevent further deterioration of the nails.
What is the outlook for koilonychia?
The exact cause of koilonychia determines the speed up of the healing process. If it is cause by anemia, it would take a few weeks before your condition gets better. However, the iron level in the body will take a few months to normalize.
If koilonychia is caused by other underlying reasons, then it would definitely take time before you will see a significant improvement on your nails.
Keep in mind that it is not only the fingernails that are affected. It could also affect the toenails. The nails in the finger grow faster than the toenails. (2, 6, 7)
What you can do to prevent koilonychia?
- Keep your nails clean and short at all times to prevent infection.
- Keep your nails lubricated by regularly putting on a skin softener or oil after every bath
- Avoid the habit of biting the nails.
- Use a well-fitting shoes.
- If your nail is damaged, do not inflict more harm by putting nail polish. Wait for your nails to return to its normal state before putting nail polish.
- When working with strong chemicals, make sure you wear gloves, especially if you have sensitive skin.
- Eat a nutritious food, especially foods rich in iron and vitamin B12.
- Take iron and vitamin B supplements. (6, 7, 8)
If you are suspecting koilonychia or you have an ongoing nail infection, you have to consult your doctor right away. An infection is easier to treat if it is in the initial stage rather than in advanced stage.
The doctor will conduct a thorough physical assessment of the nails and will determine the appropriate treatment for your condition.