ZocdocAnswersWhat causes nails to become flaky?

Question

What causes nails to become flaky?

What could cause nails to become flaky and brittle? Ever since I hit menopause, mine have been like this. Is this normal? Is It possible a vitamin deficiency? How should I treat my fingernails to make them firm and harden up?

Answer

Nail issues are a concern for many people. Weak or brittle nails are prone to slow growth, breaking, and peeling. The medical term for this is onychoschizia. There are multiple potential causes of flaky brittle nails ranging from benign to potentially more serious conditions. Weak nails are a very common symptom of menopause due to fluctuations in hormones. During menopause the level of estrogen is lowered. Estrogen is involved in water regulation so lower levels lead to dry flaky nails. The most common cause of brittle nails is actually frequent wetting of the nails through cleaning dishes, washing hands, etc. Brittle nails can also be a sign of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, in particular B complex vitamins such as biotin, calcium, and zinc. It can also be sign of certain medical conditions such as anemia (low blood count), thyroid disorders, and skin disorders such as psoriasis. It is important to see your primary care provider or dermatologist to determine the cause of your brittle flaky nails and discuss the most appropriate treatment. In the meantime protect your nails by wearing protective gloves while washing and cleaning, take a multivitamin, avoid nail polish and remover, avoid prolonged exposure to water such as swimming, and apply a moisturizer to your hands and nails.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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