Nail Dystrophy: The Cause of Brittle, Peeling & Fragile Nails

Nail dystrophy refers to poor nail formation, usually as the result of trauma or infection. When caused by trauma, the nail becomes discolored due to blood pooling underneath the nail. Over time, the nail breaks away from the nail bed until it detaches completely. A new nail will grow in its place, but it may not grow back properly if the nail bed is damaged in the process.

The Disadvantages of Nail Dystrophy

Nail dystrophy affects millions of people nationwide. And while nail dystrophy occurs more frequently in older women than in any other group, anyone can be affected by the dry, peeling nails it presents. Some of the disadvantage of brittle nails include:

  • Dry, brittle nails incur chalky streaks when coming into contact with hard surfaces
  • Nails are flaky and “shed” on a daily basis
  • Fingernails that split longways, causing unsightly fractures in the nail plate
  • Nails are painful when coming into contact with other objects
  • Unsightly nails lead to self-consciousness about appearance
  • Self consciousness about nails leading to withdrawal from public and social situations

Causes of Nail Dystrophy

Two common infections that cause nail dystrophy are onychomycosis and psoriasis. Onychomycosis is a fungal infection. The infected nail becomes discolored and falls off, similar to a trauma-related nail condition. Psoriasis has somewhat different symptoms. Yellow or brown lesions build up under the nail, leading to misshapen or split nails.Fungal infections are particularly common to the feet because of the warm moisture that gets trapped in socks and shoes. Fungi enter small cuts in the skin, generally near the cuticle of the toenail. It is difficult to treat fungal infections, but over-the-counter antifungal medications tend to work well in the short term. However, repeat infections are common. In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the nail, allowing the nail bed to be sanitized.Brittle nails, known as onychorrhexis, are common to about 20 percent of the population. Most sufferers are women. Brittle nails are overly prone to breakage. This type of dystrophy is generally the result of age or overexposure to soap and detergent. However, brittle nails may also indicate a more serious disease, including malnutrition, hyperthyroidism, or some other endocrine disorder.

The word “dystrophy” means malformation or poor formation, and when you have nail dystrophy it means that your fingernail or toenail has formed improperly for one of several likely reasons. For the most part, the reasons that nails form poorly are:

  • Trauma to the nail – stubbing your toe, smashing a finger, or any other type of trauma to the fingers and toes can cause the nail to suffer. You have to first address any injury to the digit before seeking to repair the nail, and there are times when the nail is lost altogether. This can cause the nail to re-grow in a flawed way, which can require more intense intervention.
  • Fungal infection – nail dystrophy is also frequently caused by a fungal infection in any part of the nail – this can include the nail bed or the nail itself. For the most part, any nails with a fungal issue will turn color, become brittle, and generally crumble or break easily. These usually need to be treated with special anti-fungal remedies, and there are times when the nail bed needs removal as well.
  • Psoriasis – though considered a skin disease, psoriasis can also lead to changes in the nails due to lesions that form beneath them on the nail bed. This is something that is very difficult to treat, and some people must have the nail removed in order to address the issue directly on the nail bed.

Clearly, nail dystrophy is an unattractive and deeply unwelcome issue. It can be hard to manage, but one of the best ways to do so is to use early intervention. Generally, the earlier that you get to work dealing with nail dystrophy, the better the outcome for any of the affected nails as they re-grow and recover.

Nail Dystrophy Treatment

Brittle nails may be treated with vitamin supplements. Biotin, zinc, and iron are known to improve nail strength. Sufferers may also try moisturizers, fortified nail polish, and a nail-protecting regimen that includes the avoidance of harsh soaps.

Peeling nails are usually a symptom of physical or chemical stress on the hands. Nutrient deficiencies and overexposure to water may also cause peeling nails. The problem may even be something as simple as cold, dry weather. Thus, peeling nails may be prevented or treated by carefully paying attention to lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the hands. Glycerin, petrolatum, and mineral oil moisturizers usually help.

Whether facing brittle, peeling, or split nails, moisturizers are beneficial for protecting the keratin that holds each nail together. After addressing trauma, infections, and diseases that may cause nail dystrophy, the best solution is to focus on properly moisturizing the nails each day. Through proper education, you can overcome brittle, peeling, and split nails.

If your nail dystrophy is severe enough, it may require a prescription treatment to keep it under control. Learn more about your condition and available treatments today: