Brittle Nails

Brittle nails are quite common problem. This symptom is not just a cosmetic issue as it may indicate lack of certain vitamins and minerals, or it may even be associated with a number of seemingly unrelated diseases.



Quality of nails decreases with age and fragility is more common. It is just a natural process of aging.

Outer environment factors

Nails become fragile when in frequent contact with water and chemical substances. It is common for jobs as cleaning ladies, cooks, etc.

Lack of vitamins

Deficiency of vitamin C and B vitamins (e.g. vitamin B2 or vitamin B9) causes among other symptoms also increased brittleness of nails. Typical disorders of correct hair and nail formation is expressed by lack of compound known as biotin (so-called vitamin H).

Lack of minerals

Brittle nails are more likely to occur by lack of calcium in the body, in addition it is also observed in people with zinc deficiency and silicon deficiency.

Nutrient deficiency

Insufficient supply of nutrients, especially lack of proteins, naturally has an impact on composition and strength of nails. The problem commonly affects women with anorexia nervosa and patients with gastrointestinal malabsorption.

Nail fungal disease

Fungal disease of nails disrupts their correct structure and causes fragility. This problem mainly affects nails of the lower extremities.

Underactive thyroid gland

Hypothyroidism causes overall impairment of energetic metabolism in the entire body. Even nail tissue is affected and quality of nails deteriorates.

Iron deficiency anemia

By people with iron deficiency anemia brittle nails are more common. In this case it is just a banality comparing to more serious accompanying symptoms (like anemic syndrome).


During menopause there is a gradual drop of estrogen levels. Estrogen has complex effect including maintenance of body fluids. Lack of this estrogen changes water metabolism and may degrade nail quality.

Selenium poisoning

Poisoning can happen in overdose by selenium supplements. Trying to treat selenium deficiency can simply cause more harm than good.

Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources