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Koilonychia, also known as spoon nails, is a nail disease often caused by anemia, especially anemia that stems from an iron deficiency.


Koilonychia has the nickname spoon nails because the number one sign of the disease is abnormal thinning of the nails that then leads to the nails losing their convexity and becoming either flat or concave in shape. The shape of the nail begins to resemble a spoon, so much so that the depression in the nail may be able to hold droplets of water or other liquids. Koilonychia can affect both fingernails and toenails, but it typically appears on the hands.


Note: The nails of newborn babies often have the shape of koilonychias nails, but this is a normal infant nail shape that disappears as the baby ages.


The most common cause of koilonychias is an iron deficiency, but the condition can be congenital (meaning it is present from birth), or it can be caused by several different diseases and disorders. Some of the most common causes outside of iron deficiency and genetics include hypochromic anemia, iron-deficiency anemia, lupus, diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, Plummer-Vinson syndrome, Nail-Patella Syndrome, Renal disease, radiation or chemotherapy, and musculoskeletal and kidney abnormalities.


Koilonychia has also be associated with trauma as well as digestive problems, poor diet and the body’s inability to absorb proper nutrients from food.


Koilonychia shows itself in a variety of ways that differ from person to person. Common signs and symptoms of the nail deformity include:


  • Nails that are spoon shaped
  • Concave nails
  • Nails that are easily detached from the nail bed
  • Nail thinning and brittleness
  • Nail discoloration, which is usually a sign of a secondary infection
  • Paronychia, which is a red inflammation around the nail


Treatment and Prevention

As most cases of koilonychias are caused by an iron deficiency, it’s common for doctors to check your iron levels and suggest dietary changes or supplements. If your koilonychias is caused by a separate health condition, treatment of that condition will most likely take precedence.


Dietary changes can go a long way in treating and preventing spoon nails. Eating a healthy and balanced diet rich in leafy green vegetables and lean proteins is recommended.


Other things you can do to strengthen the nails include avoiding tight or uncomfortable footwear, keeping your nails clean and dry, using oils to keep the nails hydrated and healthy, and avoid harsh chemicals that can dry out the nails.

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