Terry’s Nails

Overview

What is Terry’s nails?

Terry’s nails is when most of your fingernail or toenail looks white, like frosted glass, except for a thin brown or pink strip at the tip. People with Terry’s nails don’t have a half-moon shape (lunula) near their cuticles. Instead, nearly the whole nail looks washed out.

If you have Terry’s nails, it usually affects all your fingernails. But you can also have it on just one fingernail or one toenail.

Some people develop Terry’s nails as part of the usual aging process. In others, Terry’s nails is a sign of an underlying disease.

Terry’s nails is a type of leukonychia. Leukonychia refers to white discoloration in one or multiple nails.

Where does the name Terry’s nails come from?

Terry’s nails gets its name from the doctor who first noticed that the symptom occurred along with specific diseases. In the 1950s, Richard Terry found that more than 8 out of 10 people with severe liver scarring (cirrhosis) also had white nails.

What is the difference between Terry’s nails and Lindsay’s nails?

Terry’s nails appears as a mostly white or washed-out nailbed. Lindsay’s nails refers to nails that are half white and half brown or red.

Both Terry’s nails and Lindsay’s nails can be signs of an underlying condition. People with liver disease are more likely to have Terry’s nails. People with kidney disease are more likely to have Lindsay’s nails.

Possible Causes

What are the most common causes of this symptom?

Some people develop Terry’s nails as part of typical aging. Experts think that people with Terry’s nails have fewer blood vessels near their nailbeds.

But Terry’s nails can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as:

Care and Treatment

How do health providers treat Terry’s nails?

Usually, having Terry’s nails doesn’t mean you need any specific treatment.

If you do need treatment, the care focuses on the underlying cause of Terry’s nails. For example, if you have liver problems or diabetes, you may take medication or change your diet. Your healthcare provider can give you a treatment plan to help you live a healthier life with a chronic condition.

Can Terry’s nails go away?

Yes. Often, Terry’s nails goes away when you treat the condition that causes this symptom.

How can I prevent Terry’s nails?

There’s no guaranteed way to prevent Terry’s nails. But you can improve your overall nail health with a few lifestyle changes. To keep your nails healthier:

  • Avoid biting your nails or picking at hangnails.
  • Clean your nails regularly with a soft-bristle nail brush.
  • Moisturize your nails and cuticles with a fragrance-free lotion or hand cream.
  • Protect your nails by wearing rubber gloves when cleaning or using chemical products.
  • Trim your toenails straight across to avoid ingrown toenails.
  • Wear footwear that fits properly and doesn’t squeeze your toenails.

When to Call the Doctor

When should I go to a healthcare provider for Terry’s nails?

If you have Terry’s nails, it’s important to go to a healthcare provider for a checkup. Sometimes, Terry’s nails occurs as part of typical aging. But it can also point to serious medical conditions. Your healthcare provider can tell the difference.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Terry’s nails go away with pressure?

When you apply pressure to your nailbeds, the discoloration may temporarily disappear. But applying pressure doesn’t cure Terry’s nails. It only goes away for as long as you press on your nails.

Can stress cause Terry’s nails?

No. Terry’s nails is not typically a symptom of stress. But stress can cause other nail symptoms. When you're stressed, you may be more likely to get nail infections, nail ridges or brittle nails.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Terry’s nails is a type of nail discoloration. The nails look white or washed-out with a thin, reddish-brown strip near the tip. Usually, Terry’s nails affects all your fingernails. But you can have Terry’s nails in your toenails or just one fingernail or toenail. Sometimes, Terry’s nails is part of typical aging. Or the symptom can point to an underlying disease. People with liver failure often have Terry’s nails. There’s no specific treatment for Terry’s nails. Usually, treatment focuses on the underlying condition.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/03/2022.

References

  • Nia AM, Ederer S, Dahlem KM, Gassanov N, Er F. Terry’s Nails: A Window to Systemic Diseases. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21683827/) Am J Med: Phys Find. 2011 Jul; 124(7): 602-604. Accessed 5/3/2022.
  • Piukweerakul S, Pilla S. Terry’s Nails and Lindsay’s Nails: Two Nail Abnormalities in Chronic Systemic Diseases. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4945547/) J Gen Intern Med. 2016 Aug; 31(8): 970. Accessed 5/3/2022.
  • Witkowska AB, Jasterzbski TJ, Schwartz RA. Terry’s Nails: A Sign of Systemic Disease. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5448267/) Indian J Dermatol. 2017 May-Jun; 62(3): 309-311. Accessed 5/3/2022.

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