Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"What causes nails to crack and split?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat causes nails to crack and split?


Several of my fingernails have cracked or split ? why would this happen? I'm worried I have some kind of deficiency in my diet. I know they make a kind of nail polish that's supposed to keep your nails strong, but that seems like it doesn't really get to the root of the problem.


Nails can provide some evidence of a person's underlying health status. If you notice sudden changes in your nails, it can be a good idea to bring this up with your primary care physician. He or she can examine your nails in the context of a more general history and physical exam. Changes in nail texture can be associated with many different things. Brittle nails that crack frequently have been noted with iron deficiency and thyroid or kidney problems. Splitting nails or pitting of the nails themselves are both seen with psoriasis. Low levels of Vitamin C, folic acid, and certain proteins in the diet are also known to cause nail splitting. Changes in nail shape can also give some information about underlying health. Nails that grow in a spoon shape can be associated with a deficiency of either iron or vitamin B12. Finally, changes in nail color can also be significant. White lines in the nail can be seen in patients with live problems, while whitish spots in the nail itself are most often caused by local trauma or injury to the nail bed. A gradual yellowing of the nail can be associated with many things, including liver or kidney disease or chronic infections. Overall, nails can provide an early and often very subtle clue about changes in one's health. If you notice new or sudden changes in the health of your nails, this can be discussed with a physician who can put these symptoms into context with the rest of your health history and physical exam.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.