Brittle nails represent a sign and a symptom that occurs with noted changes in the shape and structure of the nails that appear fragile, easy to break and chipped

Generally, it is an issue associated with the brittle nails syndrome, a medical condition that is manifested by more signs such vertical lines (onychorrhexis), horizontal cracks and vertical disintegration of the layers that make up the nail (onychoschizia), and friability of the nails. The fragility may be transient, but the effect of external conditions and temporary use of aggressive chemicals may be persistent, or because it is linked to diseases such as hypo and hyperthyroidism, and immune based diseases such as lichen. 

Brittleness of the nails can also be observed as an indication of aging or in response to long-term use of nail polish or exposure to moist conditions (including frequent dishwashing or swimming). Some diseases are also associated with changes in the nails, which can include brittleness.


What diseases can be associated with brittle nails?

The main diseases linked to brittle nails include the following:


  • Eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia nervosa)
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Anemia (iron deficiency)
  • Lichen planus
  • Onychomycosis
  • Mycosis (fungal diseases)
  • Tuberculosis
  • Onicofagia
  • Hereditary osteo-onicodisplasia, also known as nail-patella syndrome (NPS) 
  • Sjogren's Syndrome
  • Trauma


A less common cause of brittle nails is reactive arthritis, which is an unusual reaction of the immune system that affects the joints, muscles and other parts of the body following an infection.

However, it is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list and it would always be better to consult your doctor if symptoms persist.


What are the remedies for brittle nails?

The remedies for brittle nails vary depending on the reasons or conditions that cause the sign or symptom. In the presence of brittle nails it is recommended to contact your doctor who will indicate any necessary examinations and more effective therapies. 

Generally, the use of ointments and lotions made ​​from natural vegetable oils make the nails more soft and hydrated and help to promote healing. A doctor subscribes supplements of biotin (vitamin H belonging to the vitamin B complex, also known as vitamin B8) so that the resistance of the nails is improved. Other remedies made ​​from organic silicone or sulphur are considered useful in the healing process. It may be helpful to wear protective gloves for frequent contact with aggressive chemicals or before putting the hands in water. It is recommended to avoid keeping the nails in water for a prolonged time or to apply glazes and solvents. 


When is it advised to consult with a doctor in case of brittle nails? 

Brittle nails are not a medical emergency, but you should contact your doctor promptly for diagnosis of any associated condition.