Fingernails and toenails are made of keratin, a fibrous structural protein that is normally found in the outer layer of the skin. Nails in humans consist of matrix, eponychium, peronychium, hyponychium, nail plate, nail bed, lunula, nail fold, free edges and nail groove. Matrix of the nail is the root of the nail. It is not visible since it is covered with the proximal nail fold. The matrix of the nail is essential for production of keratin cells that form the nail plate. Apart from being in charge with production of keratin cells, nail matrix also participates in shaping of the nail and it determines the thickness of the nail. Since the matrix is definitely the most significant part of the nail its damage may cause permanent damage to the very appearance of the nail.
Changes in nails appearance may occur due to many reasons. The nails may change their color, become thick or brittle etc. Any change of nails' appearance must be reported and the underlying cause determined. Only then a doctor can recommend the most suitable treatment modality.
What Causes Brittle Toenails?
Brittle toenails commonly affect elderly people. The condition is not so common among children and teens. This is actually one of the most common problems with toenails. There are several causes of brittle toenails and the most frequent ones include nutritional deficiencies and fungal infections. In rare occasion brittle toenails occur due to illnesses of other organs.
Nutritional Deficiency and Brittle Toenails
In many cases of nutritional deficiency and malnutrition the nails change their appearance. Healthy appearance of nails is achieved with optimal intake of proteins, calcium and vitamins (especially B vitamins, vitamin C and folic acid). As for B group of vitamins vitamin B5 (panthothenic acid) as well as biotin play the most significant roles in healthy nail appearance. In case there is a vitamin or any other nutritional deficiency the nails become brittle and are prone to breakage and splits.
Fungal Infection and Brittle Toenails
If the toenails become brittle and there is a change in their color the person is most definitely suffering from fungal nail infection. In such case the affected nails become thick, excessively brittle and there is an evident discoloration. The nails are either yellow or brown. The texture as well as shape of the affected nail is changed. In case of infection of the nail bed, there is a chance of nail plate separation from the nail bed.Other Causes of Brittle Toenails
Apart from the previously mentioned brittle toenails are a common feature in people suffering from circulatory problems, severe cases of asthma, psoriasis, eczema, hypothyroidism/ hyperthyroidism. And finally, in case there is no proper moisturizing of the nails since the production of oil or sebum is reduced a person may have problems with brittle toenails (the problem that commonly occurs among elderly people).