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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Brittle Nails
      Category : Health Centers > Skin, Hair, and Nails

Brittle Nails

Alternate Names : Onychoschisis, Onychorrhexis, Onychochizia

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Brittle nails are fingernails and toenails that peel and break easily.

What is going on in the body?

Fingernails and toenails are made up of protein layers. The thickness and strength of the nails is inherited. Separation or breaking of the protein layers can occur in a person with brittle nails.

What are the causes and risks of the symptom?

The main cause of brittle nails is extreme dryness of the nail. Some individuals have a genetic predisposition to brittle nails. As people age, their nails become drier and more brittle. Dry air, common with winter's low humidity and use of indoor heat, can cause nails to dry out. Long, hot baths and showers can also make nails dry.

Diseases and conditions that can cause brittle nails include:

  • hypothyroidism, a condition caused by low levels of thyroid hormone
  • Raynaud's phenomenon, a disorder that affects the arteries of the arms and legs
  • skin diseases, such as psoriasis
  • endocrine disorders, such as Sjogren-Larsson syndrome, which also causes dry skin
  • malnutrition
  • Factors that increase a person's risk of brittle nails include:

  • frequent handwashing, which may be associated with the person's job
  • prolonged exposure to cold, dry weather
  • sunburn or windburn
  • excess exposure to chemicals, such as nail polish remover
  • Repeated injury to the nail tip can also lead to brittle nails.


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    Brittle Nails: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Lynn West, MD
    Reviewer: Barbara Mallari, RN, BSN, PHN
    Date Reviewed: 07/27/01

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