What Caused Your Brittle Toenails

Here in sunny Austin, sandals are almost a “must” during the hottest part of the summer, and often year round. If you’re going to be showing off your feet, you want your feet and toenails looking their best. Brittle nails, unfortunately, are a common problem that may deprive you of that confidence.

Classic case of toenail fungus

A wide variety of conditions can turn healthy, hardy nails into damaged, brittle ones—including, frustratingly, both too little moisture as well as too much. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it excessive dryness? Just like skin, nails can dry out, and when they do they become more brittle and vulnerable to tearing and breaking. Ironically, one of the leading causes of dry nails is exposure to too much moisture—saying keeping them stuck in sweaty shoes all day.
  • Is it a fungal infection? Caused by exposure to infected surfaces, such as gyms, pools, or the aforementioned sweaty shoes, fungal toenails cause brittleness, in addition to discoloration, thickening, crumbling, and even warping of the nail.
  • Is it your diet? Nails need a steady supply or protein, folic acid, Vitamin C, omega-3s, and other vital nutrients to stay strong and healthy. A balanced diet, and perhaps a good vitamin supplement, may help.
  • Is there an underlying health condition? There could be a few possibilities here. Thyroid disease is often linked to nail problems; conditions that reduce blood flow to the extremities (such as diabetes, peripheral artery disease, and others) are another possible culprit.
  • Do you like to paint your nails a little too much? Nail polish (even clear) traps moisture and can be linked to fungal infections, and chemicals such as polish removers and cuticle solvents can damage nails over time if applied too often.
  • Is it just natural aging? Just like the rest of your body, the condition of your nails changes as you get older, including losing the ability to retain moisture as easily. That can lead to excessive dryness and, thus, brittle nails.

Common home remedies for brittle nails include proper hygiene and trimming habits, regular moisturizing, foot soaks, supplements and, perhaps most importantly, wearing shoes that fit properly and don’t pinch your toes.

If excessive brittleness is leading to tearing, chipping, and other problems, and home remedies have not helped, call Dr. McSpadden at North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute. He’ll help you isolate the cause(s) of your trouble and help put you back on the path to healthy and strong nails. Contact us online, or give us a call at 512-593-2949.

Posted on September 1, 2015 and filed under Nail Care.