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"What are some causes of weak, soft nails?"

What does it mean if your nails are soft and weak? It just seems like my nails break or tear at the slightest impact. Does this have to do with my diet, or could it even be a sign of some kind of degenerative illness?
Nail issues are very common, affecting as many as 20% of people. The medical term for this condition is onychoschizia if the splitting is horizontal and onychorrhexia if the splitting is longitudinal. The two conditions together are referred to as "brittle nail syndrome". There are many causes of weak brittle nails ranging from benign to more serious. The most common cause is frequent exposure to water as in washing dishes, cleaning, swimming, etc. as the process of wetting and drying causes the nails to become brittle. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies have also been shown to be a cause of brittle nails so your diet might be contributing to your symptoms. The most common deficiencies include B complex vitamins (especially biotin), calcium, and zinc. Other medical conditions that can cause brittle nails include anemia (low blood count), thyroid disorders, and certain skin disorders such as lichen planus or psoriasis. It is important to see your primary care doctor or dermatologist to determine the cause of your symptoms and discuss the appropriate treatment. In the meantime protect your nails by wearing gloves when washing dishes or cleaning, avoid prolonged exposure to water such as swimming, take a multivitamin, avoid nail polish and removers, and use a moisturizer.
This answer 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 or (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.

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