Nails that appear coarse and opaque can be sign or symptom of transient conditions, environmental factors (low humidity) or of a disease. The nails may suddenly appear with less shine than before or with irregular, altered or thickened forms because of abnormalities in the formation of the layers of protein (keratin) from which they are composed. They can also change with aging. As an individual grows older, the levels of natural oil and moisture in the nail plates decrease and so the ridges become prominent with age.

Generally, coarse and opaque nails are associated with brittle nail syndrome, which is a medical condition that is manifested with more signs such as vertical lines (onychorrhexis), horizontal or vertical cracks, exfoliation of the layers that make up the nail (onychoschizia), or friability of the nails.

The condition may be transient, due to the effect of external conditions, the temporary use of aggressive chemicals or it may be linked to diseases such as nail fungus (onychomycosis), hypo- and hyperthyroidism, or immune based diseases such as lichen.

By keeping nails clean, hydrated, and by applying helpful ointments and lotions, an individual can see overall signs of improvement. Taking into account different diagnosis signs and symptoms of nail abnormalities (plus lifestyle, diet, family history, medical history, environmental factors), a treatment plan can be devised.


What diseases can be associated with nails coarse and dull?

While nail abnormalities are often a sign of fungal nail infection or injury, they can sometimes indicate a more severe underlying disease. The main diseases related to problems concerning coarse and opaque nails include the following:


  • Anemia (iron deficiency)
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Vitamin B
  • Linchen planus
  • Eating disorders
  • Alopecia areata
  • Dermatitis
  • Dermatophytosis
  • Psoriasis
  • Ichthyosis
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Onychomycosis
  • Mycosis (fungal diseases)


Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive and it is always a good idea to consult with a doctor regarding any questions, concerns, or if symptoms persist.


What are possible treatment options for coarse and opaque nails?

Treatment options for coarse and opaque nails vary depending on the cause of the sign or symptom. Contacting a doctor is advisable for further examination and more effective therapies.

Generally, the use of ointments and lotions based on natural vegetable oils leave the nails soft and hydrated, helping to promote healing. Taking biotin supplements (vitamin H belonging to vitamin B complex and also called vitamin B8) prescribed by a physician and eating foods that are high in biotin, such as green leafy vegetables, brown rice, sunflower seeds, liver, cheese, soybeans, and sweet potatoes can help improve nail resistance. Other remedies made from organic silicon or sulfur are also considered useful to the healing process.

It may be helpful to wear gloves before immersing hands in the water or before coming into contact with harsh chemicals. Also, keeping hands in water for too long or applying glazes and solvents are best to be avoided. 


When is it advised to consult with a doctor regarding coarse and opaque nails? 

Having coarse and opaque nails is not a medical emergency; however an individual should contact a doctor immediately for diagnosis, regarding any medical conditions that may be associated with the disorder.