Spoon Nails – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment of Concave (Scoop) Nails

The physical appearance of your fingernails say a lot about your health and may be a sign of an underlying medical condition or injury to the fingernail. Koilonychia, Spoon nails, or concave nails is often attributed to iron deficiency anemia but it may be a symptom of other medical conditions. Read on to find out more about causes, symptoms, treatments of nail spooning.  

Spoon Nails Definition, Meaning, in Toddlers, on One Finger

Spoon nails are attributed to a medical condition known as Koilonychia. Terms such as concave nails, scoop nails, and spooning nails are also used to describe this nail disease.

The MedicineNet defines Koilonychia (spooning of nails) can as “concavity in the fingernail itself, resulting in a depression in the nail that gives an appearance of a spoon shape to the entire nail”. That is to say that spooning of nails begins with a deformity in the nail bed which then result in a concave indent in the overlying nail plate. Consequently the affected nail turns out resulting in a spoon-like appearance of the nail.

Spoon Nails on One Finger Only

Depending on the underlying cause, spooning can affect one finger only or a number of them. It can also affect one or both hands. For example, if the patient is constantly subjecting the nails to physical pressure e.g. picking, stroking, nipping etc.,  only the fingernail that get injured is likely to show the symptoms of koilonychia. Scoop nails due to factors such as iron deficiency on the other hand is likely to show on more than one finger.

Spooning Nails in Infant and Toddlers

Should you be worried if spooning nails occur in a toddler or infant? According to the MedicineNet, normal infants and can suffer from Koilonychia but the symptoms go away as the child grows up.

Spoon Nails Symptoms

Nail distortion is the most obvious spoon nail symptom; the affected nails assume a characteristic spoon like shape. The distortion in the shape of the nails result from the concave indent in the nail bed and thus nail plate. The condition varies from mild cases that are hard to notice or are characterized by a small wave on the nail to more severe cases characterized by deep indents that can hold a drop of water. Other symptoms associated with severe spoon nail cases include thin, brittle nails that tend to split and crack in the concaved area. It is also common for the edges of the nail to curve upwards and the skin around the affected nail to become dry and crack.

Spoon Nail Images (Pictures)

To give you a clearer picture, here are a few photos showing spoon shaped nails.

Spoon Nail Image Photo 1

Spoon Nail Image Photo 2

Spoon Nail Image Photo 3

Spoon Nail Image Photo 4

Spoon Nails Causes

What causes fingernails to spoon or curve upwards? The NHS choice highlights the following as the main spoon shaped nails causes:

  • Iron deficiency anemia: Iron deficiency stands out as the most common spoon nails cause. Iron is an essential mineral in the body and its deficiency result in reduced number of red blood cells in the blood.
  • Hemochromatosis: This refers to a genetic (hereditary) liver disorder characterized by excessive amounts of iron in the body. Hemochromatosis is more common among the Caucasians and is associated with symptoms such as sexual dysfunction, joint pains, fatigue, and darkened skin among others – and sometimes no symptoms at all.
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon: Raynaud’s phenomenon can also cause spoon nails. It is associated with impeded blood supply to the fingernails and toes, making them turn color in a sequence of white-blue-red as blood flow ceases and returns back. Factors such as cold weather, stress, and anxiety can trigger Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  • Lupus erythematosus: Lupus also rank among the most common causes of spoon-shaped, concave nails. This rare autoimmune condition occurs when the immune system turns on and attack healthy body cells, tissues, and organs.

Other likely causes of scoop nails are:

  • Nail-patella syndrome: a genetic condition associated with abnormalities in musculoskeletal system and kidneys among other organs and organ systems.
  • Trauma
  • Exposure to harmful solvents especially petroleum-based ones
  • Certain medications: Scoop nails can also occur as a side-effect of certain medications
  • Protein deficiency: According to Medicine Net, protein deficiency can also cause indented, concave nails.
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism: The HealthLine also adds hypothyroidism to the list of conditions that can show as spooning of fingernails.
  • Heart disease: According to the Mayo Clinic, nail spooning may also be associated with heart disease.

Spoon Nails Treatment and Tips to Get Rid, Prevent Scoop Nails

Can spoon nails be cured? Yes, it is possible to cure scoop nails but that depends upon the underlying causes. The most appropriate spoon nail treatment will vary from one patient to another and sometimes your doctor may deem it unnecessary to use any medication or treatment.

Among the most common approaches to treating koilonychia or scoop nails are:

  1. Iron supplementation: According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), iron supplementation is usually effective and recommended for treatment or iron deficiency anemia and by extension nail spooning. Iron supplements are usually given orally, but your doctor may decide to administer the same via injection or intravenously. Iron supplement may be especially helpful for pregnant and Breastfeeding women who usually need higher amounts of iron.
  2. Taking Iron rich foods: Taking iron rich foods such as spinach, liver, soybean, peanut butter, chicken (and turkey), whole grain bread, and dried peas and beans is also advised for people with concave nails due to iron deficiency.
  3. Medications: Depending on the underlying cause of spoon nail, your doctor may also prescribe other medications and treatments.
  4. Protect your nails with gloves: This is a handy tip to get rid of and prevent the recurrence of nail scooping due to exposure to petroleum-based solvents.
  5. Filing the nail: For spooning that is caused by trauma to the nail, filing the edges of the nail as it grows may help to get rid of the problem naturally.
  6. Apply a moisturizing cream emollient: Applying an emollient to the affected nail or toenail can also help heal the spooning while softening the surrounding skin. This is especially helpful for cases where cracking of the surrounding skin is involved.
  7. Be patient: According to Parker Gennett, MD, a podiatrist based in Vestal, N.Y., “Because nails grow so slowly, spoon nails could take six to nine months to correct.”
  8. Avoid applying Overlay for toenail spooning: While an overlay can help to “fix” the problem and make your toenails look better, Dr. Gennett advises against it if suffering from nail spooning saying that it can create a suitable environment for bacterial growth by absorbing and holding in water. This is especially likely for toenails due to the fat that toes are usually covered by shoes.
  9. Avoid biting your fingernails.