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We’ve all been there. You look down at your hands and think, “What’s going on with my fingernails? Is this normal? Should I be worried?”

One common cause for concern is koiloynechia – try saying that ten times fast – also known as “spoon nails.” We’ve broken down everything you need to know about spoon nails: What it is, what causes it, and what to do. If you’ve never heard of spoon nails before, worry not. We’ve got all the info you could ever hope for – and then some!

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What Should Healthy Nails Look Like?

We all know that our nails can be useful tools for daily tasks. They also make lovely canvases for the latest nail polish colors.

But what’s in a nail? Most of us don’t pay very close attention to our nails, but we should. Our nails can actually act as very helpful indicators of our health.

What are nails made of?

Our nails are made of layers of laminated keratin, which is a protein. They grow from the base of the nail underneath your cuticle.

What should healthy nails look like?

Healthy nails should be smooth, without pits or grooves. They should also be uniform in color and free of spots or discoloration.

If your fingers have small vertical ridges or white spots, that’s nothing to be concerned about.
Vertical ridges are something that can just naturally occur, and they seem to become more prominent with age. White spots are a sign of injury – did you bang your finger and not notice? Don’t worry, they will grow out with age.

Anything outside minor imperfections may be a sign of a more serious underlying condition.

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Koilonychia, or Spoon Nails

Koilonychia, which is commonly known by the (infinitely more pronounceable) term “spoon nails” is a condition that is characterized by soft nails that look scooped out, almost like they are curved in the opposite direction. The depression in the middle of the nail is usually large enough “to hold a drop of liquid.”

What Causes Spoon Nails?

Spoon nails are often a sign of iron deficiency anemia or a liver condition known as hemochromatosis. Hemochromatosis is a disorder where your body absorbs too much iron from your food.

Spoon nails are much more than a cosmetic issue. The long and the short of it is this: Spoon nails are usually an imbalance in your iron levels.

How to Treat Spoon Nails

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As with other nail issues, if you think that you have spoon nails, the best bet is to see a doctor. Treating spoon nails with over the counter medications will be largely ineffectual. Plus, you would be treating the symptoms rather than the cause. In order to get rid of them permanently, you want to be sure that you’re treating the root cause, usually iron deficiency.* However, they may be an indication of a larger health problem.

There you have it! If your nails are noticeably scooped in and they can hold a droplet of water you may have koiloynechica. If none of these symptoms line up with your nails, you may have found yourself down another internet wormhole. Grab yourself some cuticle butter and call it a day.

*Always consult your doctor when starting a new vitamin regime.