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For many of us, the health of our nails is something we often take for granted. That is until something goes wrong and changes the appearance or texture of the nails. Dermatologists, who are the physician experts in the care of skin, hair and nails, find brittle nails, nail fungus and problems from nail cosmetics are among the most common sources of nail disorders. Help can be found by seeking proper diagnosis and starting a proven treatment regimen, which can include medications and behavioral changes.
At the American Academy of Dermatology’s Summer Academy Meeting 2008 in Chicago, dermatologist C. Ralph Daniel, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Mississippi in Jackson, MS, and clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, AL, discussed these common nail complaints and how to recognize when a problem requires medical intervention.
Brittle nails are a common nail problem frequently seen by dermatologists in their practices. While it is rare for an internal illness or a drug to cause brittle nails, the primary cause is typically environmental. Daniel explained there are two types of brittle nails – hard and brittle nails, and soft and brittle nails.
Hard and brittle nails are caused by too little moisture, with older people more prone to this condition. This type of brittle nails can make nails feel dry, and chipping or flaking commonly occurs anywhere on the nail plate. Dry skin also is common in people with brittle nails, and the condition occurs more frequently in the winter from dry heat used to warm the indoors and in very dry climates with little humidity, such as Arizona.