Brittle nails and their main causes? How can they be combated?

Brittle nails and their main causes? How can they be combated?
Photo source: Getty images

Brittle nails are a concomitant of certain diseases. Proper hygiene and lifestyle protect the nails from increased brittleness.

Brittle nails (onychoschizia) occur in some diseases as an accompanying symptom. They are common with reduced or restricted nutrition (nutritional deficiencies).

The disease can occur in anyone. It is more common in women than in men.

It is a complete breakage or fracture of the nail plate (nail). Sometimes there may be accompanying ragades (cracks) of the nail remnants.

In general, brittle nails are divided into two groups based on the cause of their occurrence:

  • Hard brittle nails (low humidity) - These are more common in hot, dry environments in the summer or winter months.
  • Soft brittle nails (lots of moisture) - They can be caused by using acetone to remove nail polish.
Brittle nails and visible brittleness of nails on the lower limbs, feet.
Source: Getty Images

Anatomy of the nail

A nail is found on every finger in humans. At the end of the finger, a nail plate grows out of the nail bed. It corresponds to the claws or hooves of other vertebrates.

The nail is a plate-like, cornified structure that transmits light.

The nail is made up of specialized epithelial cells.

The nail bed is well vascularized and many nutrients enter the nail through this route.

In humans, the main function of the nail is to protect the fingertips. Another function is scratching.

Nails are made up of a protein called keratin, which is stored in layers. Keratin protects the nails from damage.

Up to 27% of women have brittle nails, a condition called onychoschizia.

Causes of brittle nails

The main causes tend to be:

  • Increased moisture in the nails for prolonged periods of time - Working in a moist environment (swimming pool, car wash, dishwashing, etc.)
  • Age - As we age, the resistance of the nails decreases
  • Raynaud's Syndrome - Disease associated with blood circulation to the fingers also leads to impaired blood circulation to the nail bed
  • Hypothyroidism - Low levels of thyroid hormones
  • Anemia - Anemia from iron deficiency
  • Cancer treatment - Chemotherapy and radiotherapy
  • Artificial nails - Sticking them on the nails can lead to brittleness and weakening of the nails
  • Nutrient deficiencies - Dietary protein intake leads to hardening of nails, calcium deficiency (hypocalcemia) results in brittle nails, also vitamin deficiencies. Biotin strengthens nails

Helps against brittle nails:

  • Gloves - Using cotton and rubber gloves during daily household chores will protect the nails from chemicals
  • Keep nails short - Prevent infections and nail breakage
  • Don't use nails as a tool - Prevent nail injuries

Most nail problems and nail breakage are caused by injury or biting.

Some nail damage is caused by fungal infection.

With psoriasis, nails can also become brittle and brittle.

Diabetes, heart, lung and liver disease also lead to brittle nails.

Interesting facts

It is normal for nails to get thinner and break more easily with age.

During pregnancy, nails can become more brittle.

During cancer treatment, patients may experience brittle nails in addition to drier skin or hair loss.

Long-term nail care is very important if cancer patients are undergoing radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Certain substances, such as taxanes, are associated with nail changes.

In addition to brittleness, nail changes during cancer treatment include dryness, discoloration, or complete loss of nails.

Everything from aging to poor nutrition can lead to thinning, drying and brittle nails.

Incision line in onychoschisis - on the finger nail
Nail fracture line. Source: Getty Images

Prevention and treatment

The key to preventing brittle nails is proper nail hygiene.

It is important to keep nails short to prevent infection. When nails are long, dirt can build up behind them.

In addition to disinfecting the nails with a soap-based product, proper nail hygiene also includes preventing nail injuries such as biting (behavior correction in children).

The best way to prevent brittle nails is to use gloves regularly.

Nail polish is sometimes used on soft nails with good effect.

For dry nails, moisturizing with a moisturizer helps.

Dermatologists recommend taking products containing biotin and calcium. With a six-month treatment, this is effective in about one-third of cases.

Protein intake leads to strong and durable nails, so a high-protein diet is recommended.

A diet high in iron is recommended to prevent sideropenic anaemia.

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