Thursday, September 16, 2010

Small Health Clues: Brittle Fingernails

Your nails keep breaking off or splintering and coming off in layers. So, what’s the obvious fix? Buy a nail strengthening polish and brush on a few coats prior to putting color on. But, doing this would be like continually slapping a Band-Aid on a wound that just won’t heal. There’s a reason for both and until you find the underlying problem, you’ll never actually “fix” anything. So, we are going to play a little game of sleuth and uncover some of the common issues that occur with your fingernails and what causes them:

Lines across your fingernails – these lines may pop up after an illness or if you are malnourished.

- Brittle or splitting nails – hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidsism or lack of adequate nutrition (most often iron deficiency or low biotin intake) can lead to brittle nails. If your toenails are strong and fingernails are not then an environmental cause may be to blame (winter heat, use of strong household cleaners or constantly washing and drying your hands).

If you have brittle nails, start wearing gloves when you wash dishes and clean your house, try non-acetone nail polish remover and apply lotion to your nails and cuticle areas often. Also, increase your intake of biotin-rich foods or can take this B vitamin as a supplement alone or in a B complex vitamin. Biotin rich foods include: tomatoes, romaine lettuce, carrots, oatmeal, onions, strawberries, Swiss chard, halibut, almonds and walnuts. Also, avoid raw egg whites or products that contain raw eggs since a protein in egg whites, avidin, can bind biotin preventing adequate absorption of this vitamin. When eggs are cooked, avidin no longer binds biotin.

- Abnormal shape (koilonychia) – if your fingernails have raised ridges are thin and curved inward, you probably have iron deficiency anemia.

- Pitting – depressions in your nail may be caused by psoriasis.

- General damage – disease, injury or illness can cause general damaged nails.

Here’s the bottom line – if you have issues with your fingernails that just won’t go away, even after your injury or illness has, it’s time to see a doctor. Sometimes seemingly little cues mean larger issues lie underneath.

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