Cracked nails can be a problem ranging from a minor inconvenience to a substantial and painful injury. They are frustrating to encounter, and it can be even more frustrating to wait for the nail to heal and grow out. The good news is that there are ways to manage cracked nails. Understanding the causes of cracked nails can help in understanding how to fix the problem.
Recognizing Cracked Nails
Cracked nails are one of the four main types of nail issues. The others are weak and brittle nails, splitting and peeling nails, and ridged nails. When dealing with cracked nails, the nails may also be weak or soft, but the defining characteristic of cracked nails is the way the nail breaks due to this weakness. The most common type of cracked nail happens when the nail bends and breaks along the edges of the white nail tip. However, nails can also crack vertically up the whole nail plate, from cuticle to tip. Either type of crack can cause significant pain, but luckily, both can be managed.
Changes in nails can occur for a variety of reasons. A common cause for many women is hormonal imbalance – there is a link between decreased estrogen levels and cracked nails.
Certain other conditions may be the reason behind the incidence of cracked nails. Commonly, a deficiency in vitamins and minerals can cause the nail to become weaker, which makes it easier for the nail to crack. While all nutrients are important for the body to work properly, it is especially important for fingernails to have adequate levels of protein, calcium, biotin, iron, and vitamin E.
Another possible problem is an infection in the nail. A yeast infection or another fungal infection can cause changes in the color, texture, and shape of the nails.
Also, kidney disease can generate a buildup of nitrogen waste products in the blood, which can damage nails.
Certain medications, including chemotherapy, can cause lifting of the nail from the nail bed and affect nail growth.
Aside from the underlying causes, there are several actions that may trigger nails to crack. Not everybody with cracked nails experiences the underlying causes, so those who do not have a long-term problem causing their nail issues are likely to suffer from common triggers for nails problems.
- Excessively hard work. This is especially likely to be the cause for nails that have cracked vertically down the middle. When nails are exposed to tough work like difficult household chores or tough work outdoors, they can simply begin to break due to the pressure and stress of the work. Additionally, if this hard work affects the nail bed as well, a nail may grow in cracked or damaged.
- Biting or picking at nails. Damaging the edge of the nail can damage the rest of the nail as well, making the new, growing nail weaker and prone to breaking. Nails that crack at the edges of the tip may do so because the nail has been weakened by this constant assault on its strength.
Managing Cracked Nails
To avoid causing nails to crack, there are several ways to manage the triggers that are the most likely culprits of cracking nails.
When doing hard tasks like heavy chores, it may be best to wear gloves in order to keep nails from being exposed to the brunt of the work. This will minimize the amount of damage and keep them from cracking or breaking down the middle.
Wearing gloves may also be one possible choice as a deterrent to stop biting and picking nails. Finding ways to break the habit is essential for nail health because the nail cannot grow in healthily until the damage stops.
Clipping and filing of the nail
Clipping can also be a useful method for managing cracks in the nail, especially for people who use to bite or pick at their nails. Not only does this keep the nail short enough that it is less likely to crack at the edge, but it can also help keep the edges of the nail smooth and healthy so that they will not rip or tear.
With these management techniques, the triggers should stop causing so much damage to the fingernails, and the nails will be allowed to grow in strong and healthy. To learn more about cracked nails, read all about common nail problems for women.
- Better Health. (2013). Nails - fingernail and toenail problems. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/nails-fingernail-and-toenail-problems
- Gibson, L. (2014). Is it possible to prevent split fingernails? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/split-fingernails/faq-20058182
- National Institutes of Health. (2015). Nail abnormalities. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003247.htm