What Do Your Nails Say About Your Health?

What Do Your Nails Say About Your Health?

The health of the body can most of the times be determined by a number of visible effects on the appearance of the person. You have probably heard of how different areas of the skin on your face and body indicate the health of different organs.

For example, pimples on the forehead often indicate the reduced amount of water indicate or consumption of high sugar specifically sugary carbohydrates in a large amount on a daily basis for most people.

The internal health of the body affects most of the parts of the physical appearance in addition to the skin such as the nails.

If you look at a child or baby’s hands and nails, you can feel how the texture and colors are different from your own.

Usually, the nails of children are healthy with a tint of pinkish red in them. They are also more shiny and smooth in comparison with the nails of adults or even most of the teenagers in today’s times.

Brittle and dry nails are a common complaint among the people. Sometimes this condition of the nails can occur solely due to lack of moisture.

How do the nails lose moisture? It is probably the most significant and easy to see an example of this is the nails of someone who washes a lot of dishes. Or just look at the hands of anyone in your family who shares the responsibility of the house.

Continuous exposure to water and dishwashing soap can deprive the nails of their natural moisture primarily due to the harsh chemicals that you might not know happen to be in the soap’s formula.

On the contrast, brittle nails can sometimes indicate serious problems in the body and should not be taken lightly especially if you are not involved in any activity like washing dishes but still get them.

What Do Your Nails Say About Your Health?

What are brittle nails?

In accordance with the statistics, brittle nails are quite common and can be a result of everyday activities though women are reported to have them more often in comparison with the men.

Nearly 20% of the women alone in the United States have reported having brittle nails without any serious causes because healthy nails becoming dry is usually not that big of a deal given that nails become more sensitive as the process of aging starts.

The nails on hands and toes are both made up of layers of the protein known as Keratin. You have probably heard of the popularity of Keratin, also known as the beauty protein due to its immense benefits for skin, hair, and nails.

Keratin is what makes the nails smooth in texture and prevents coloring spots in them. People with healthier nails tend to have a good amount of keratin in their nails.

Keratin is a protein and can, therefore, be affected by some of the harsh daily activities. Washing hands in hot water can hurt the nails and cause them to be brittle.

You have probably noticed brittle nails are more common in winter when hot showers are preferred over cold ones by most of the people.

The nails on the toes are reportedly much stronger than the ones on hands which is why any signs of damage occur firstly on your hands. Brittle nails peel off and break away easily and can also not be caused by your routine activities.

What are the symptoms of brittle nails?

In some cases, people do not even realize their nails have become brittle and dry and they just keep wondering why do their nails break or chip so easily. It is due to the fact that sometimes telling the difference between brittle and healthy nails can be difficult.

Whether it is the toenails or fingernails that are affected, the following are the signs you should look out for:

  • Longitudinal ridging
  • Peeling (typically at the ridges)
  • Increased chipping and breaking of nails
  • Splits at the ends of the nails
  • Problems in growing the nails

What are the causes of the brittle nails?

As mentioned before, brittle nails are prevalent among the people and do not usually indicate the signs of some other issue most of the times.

Something as trivial as overexposure to water and chemicals, overusing of nail polish remover or wearing nail paint for long periods of times can lead to the weakening of the nails.

There are cases where all of these can occur at the same time as well. Women usually are more likely to get brittle nails due to a combination of these factors in comparison with men.

Once the reason behind brittle nails is identified, you can simply treat them by an over the counter ointment and preventing the activity or wear gloves while performing it. Most of the times, the result are visible in less than a week.

In addition to these minor factors leading to brittle nails, some other of your habits or body conditions can affect the nails too. Following are some of the other reasons behind brittle nails:

  • Thyroid diseaseThe most visible signs of a thyroid disease are brittle nails following a lot of hair loss. Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can both contribute to damaging your nails considerably.

    Statistically, women are more likely to have hypothyroidism which means the thyroid is not producing enough hormones.


    One of the functions of the hormones produced by the thyroid is to regulate body sweat. Lack of sweat production is one of the reasons nails lose their moisture content and grow brittle and dry.

  • Nail Psoriasis


  • Lichen planus


  • Iron and Calcium deficiencies 

    The important question of whether nutritional deficiencies can affect your nails was recently answered by American Osteopathic College of Dermatology along with others in their researches which showed Iron and Calcium deficiency are more likely to be behind brittle nails. 

    The studies carried out also observed the minor difference between brittle toenails and brittle fingernails. In accordance with the study, if the toenails seem to be healthy when the fingernails seem brittle, external factors are typically responsible.

RELATED: Iron Deficiency (Anemia) In Women – Reasons and Prevention 

  • Reactive arthritis (rare but possible) 
  • Fungal nail infectionsAnother common cause can be fungus attacks on the nails. This condition is usually not serious unless you ignore it for a long time and occurs more on the toenails rather than the fingernails because of specific reasons.

    A fungus growth within the nails is linked to overexposure to moisture and water. Most of the people who have habits of wearing socks right after a shower before leaving for work have higher chances of getting a fungal infection in their toenails.

    This is the only reason that affects men more than women.

  • Trauma


What Do Your Nails Say About Your Health?

While most of the times brittle nails are not an underlying factor of a serious body condition, it is important to see a doctor if brittle nails accompany other changes in the nails such as in the color, shape and their separation from the skin.

Bleeding, pain, swelling or numbness of the nails can be effects of other diseases such as diabetes and can worsen if not treated properly. Do not use topical creams on fingernails or toenails if you see any of these symptoms as they can make the situation work instead of improving it.

Other things to keep in mind include your water and daily diet intake that can affect the moisture in your nails. Climate and weather-induced nails can be avoided effectively by protection.

If you can, try and wear gloves when you head outside in a harsh weather or when you are doing an activity that can damage the nails but do not forget to give them enough air either. Balancing is the key to avoiding regular brittle nails.



Andrea White

As a graduate of Public Health and Policy, Andrea developed an interest in disease development, food and safety and the latest advancements in health. She is a Freelance writer who had affiliations with multiple blogs. Andrea is now pursuing her post-doctorate in Behavioral Sciences.

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