Alternate Names : Onychoschisis, Onychorrhexis, Onychochizia
Brittle nails are fingernails and toenails that peel and break
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:
condition caused by low levels of thyroid hormone
a disorder that affects the arteries of the arms and legs
skin diseases, such as
endocrine disorders, such as
Sjogren-Larsson syndrome, which also causes dry skin
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.