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why do my nails crack and split

Fingernails are composed of a strong protein called keratin that allows the nails to grow long without splitting or cracking. In order for keratin to produce strong nails, the body must be functioning properly. Underlying medical problems or malnutrition can disrupt proper body function and cause the nails to become brittle and more likely to crack and split. Lichen planus is an autoimmune condition that affects the skin and mucus membranes in the body. The inflammation is caused by an autoimmune response that causes the body to interpret normal cells in the skin and mucus membranes as potentially harmful invaders and attack them. The trigger of this autoimmune response is unknown. Symptoms of lichen planus differ based on which area of the body is affected. If the skin is affected, the symptoms include purplish bumps on the body, itchiness, crustiness and scabs. When lichen planus affects the nails, it can cause ridges in the nail, brittleness that results in thinning and splitting of the nail and nail loss. According to MayoClinic. com, lichen planus usually disappears on its own, however, it could take years. A variety of medications may be used to control itching while symptoms persist. Hypoparathyroidism is a condition in which the parathyroid glands do not produce enough parathyroid hormone.

The parathyroid glands are small glands located next to the thyroid gland in the front of the neck. Parathyroid hormones are responsible for controlling levels of calcium, phosphorous and vitamin D in the blood and bone, according to MedlinePlus, a service of the National Institutes of Health. When parathyroid hormone in the body is low, calcium levels in the blood decrease and phosphorus levels increase. Symptoms of hypoparathyroidism include brittle fingernails, abdominal pain, cataracts, dry hair, scaly skin, muscle cramps and spasms, pain and tingling in the lips, fingers and toes. Treatment for hypoparathyroidism usually consists of lifelong supplementation of calcium and vitamin D. MedlinePlus notes that following a diet high in calcium and low in phosphorous is also recommended. Iron-deficiency anemia is characterized by a low red blood cell count that occurs as a result of inadequate iron in the body. Iron is needed to make hemoglobin, the iron-rich protein component of red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues in the body. Without hemoglobin, oxygen cannot be delivered to the tissues of the body. This can result in fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, pale skin and gums, chest pain, brittle fingernails, inflammation of the tongue, cracks in the sides of the mouth and recurrent infections, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

Iron-deficiency anemia is an easily treatable condition that can be corrected with an increase in dietary iron intake or iron supplementation. If iron-deficiency anemia occurs as a result of severe blood loss, blood transfusions may be needed.
Nutritional deficiencies can cause a multitude of symptoms, including changes in the health and appearance of your fingernails. Although protein plays a major role in your overall state of health, a deficiency of this nutrient does not cause splitting or cracking of your nails. Cracks in your fingernails may occur due to environmental conditions or can appear in response to an inadequate consumption of certain nutrients. Eating a balanced diet provides adequate amounts of protein for most people. Women require about 46 g of protein each day, while men need about 56 g per day. Food sources of protein include beans, nuts, dairy products, eggs, meats, fish and poultry. A protein deficiency can cause symptoms that include skin lesions, apathy, edema and tender arms and legs. Although you may not notice any difference in your nails, hair changes are common. If you have a protein deficiency, your hair may look and feel brittle, straight and dry.

Splitting due to nutritional deficiencies tends to affect toenails as well as fingernails. Iron deficiency is a common cause of nail problems. An iron deficiency may lead to nails that crack easily and grow slowly. Niacin and biotin supplements may help reduce nail splitting. Other vitamins that may help improve the health and appearance of your nails include copper, vitamins C, B12 and B6, as well as folic acid. Nutritional deficiencies are uncommon, and environmental causes are the most likely culprit of nail problems in people who consume varied diets. Repeatedly wetting and drying your nails is the most common reason for developing splits and cracks. Wearing gloves and using lotion may help protect your nails and minimize cracking from environmental conditions. Let your doctor know if you experience signs of a nutritional deficiency. Blood tests can help reveal nutritional deficiencies and provide valuable information regarding your diet and your state of health. Consuming excess amounts of nutrients may cause various side effects. Talk to your doctor before taking nutritional supplements to treat a medical illness or a suspected deficiency, especially if you take medication or have a chronic health disorder. Some supplements can interact with certain medications.

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