Suffering from a break or brittleness in fingernails? You may be having a condition called Onychorrhexis. Read on to know all about Onychorrhexis, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
What Is Onychorrhexis?
Onychorrhexis is a nail disease. It makes the finger nails or toenails brittle and ultimately causes their breakage. Reportedly, around 20% of the population suffer from this disorder.
Onychorrhexis is also known as “Brittle Nails” or “Brittle Nail Syndrome”.
Onychorrhexis is pronounced as “On-i-ko-rek-sis”.
Onychorrhexis is marked by brittleness of the nails. The disease makes nails peel or break easily. Nails have a series of longitudinal ridges from this condition. The appearance of these lengthwise ridges is known as Onychorrhexis.
Onychorrhexis causes another disease known as Onychoschisis which is characterized by splitting of the nails at the ends.
Nails of the finger and toe are made up of layers of protein. The protein layers make the nail strong and thick. In people with Onychorrhexis, protein layers separate or break down leading to brittle nails.
Causes of Onychorrhexis
Onychorrhexis nail disorder mainly affects people who suffer from disorders like :
This glandular disorder results from a deficiency of thyroid hormone production. Reduced thyroid production happens due to a hypoactive thyroid gland. It is one of the major causes of Onychorrhexis.
This condition affects young women who get depressed after eating in excess and feel guilty about not controlling their diet and keeping a check on their weight.
This is another psychological disease in which the sufferer is obsessed with his or her body weight and has a delusion of being too fat despite being emaciated.
This disorder arises from a lack of red blood cells in the bloodstream.
Nail Polish Removers
People who use too much nail polish remover are greatly susceptible to Onychorrhexis.
Those who work for long hours with soap and water are also at risk from this disease.
This is a chronic skin ailment characterized by the appearance of red rashes over the skin surface. The patches are often seen to be covered with scales.
Prolonged exposure to cold as during repeated hand washing or in chilling weather is also seen as a cause.
Trauma or injury to the nails can also result in Onychorrhexis. Repeated injuries to the nail are often seen to give rise to this condition.
Poor nutrition can affect the health and growth of nails and make them brittle.
The diagnosis of Onychorrhexis is not complicated. The disease is detected mainly by physical observation of the nails. Patients are also asked about the medical history and lifestyle.
Blood tests and thyroid level examinations may be recommended if the doctor suspects underlying conditions like Hypothyroidism.
Onychorrhexis Differential Diagnosis
The differential diagnosis for Onychorrhexis involves differentiating the disease from other similar nail disorders like Nail Patella Syndrome, Onychogryposis, Psoriatic nails, Onychatrophobia and Subungual Hematoma.
The medical treatment of Onychorrhexis generally depends on the underlying condition. Doctors have to make an accurate diagnosis of the causative condition and work for its treatment. Treatment is supposed to vary with the nature of disease behind the appearance of Onychorrhexis. Once the causative condition is treated, the Onychorrhexis symptoms will also disappear in a short while.
Onychorrhexis Home Remedies
The treatment of Onychorrhexis at home involves medications like hand creams. Using a cream or lotion consisting of natural plant oils will keep the hand moist and help cure the disease. Regular application of moisturizers on the skin and nails will ensure that the symptoms do not recur.
There are two types of moisturizers available in the market. You can go for any of these over-the-counter Onychorrhexis moisturizers –
These provide immediate relief to nail and skin from dryness. But the moistness lasts as long as they remain on the skin surface. Cosmetic Moisturizers are effective in people with sporadic or brittle nails.
These are petroleum or mineral oil based creams that keep nails moist by preventing evaporation of water from its surface.
Addition of more vitamins and minerals into the diet is also believed to work as an effective treatment, though this has not been proved. But dietary changes make sense as more minerals and vitamins in diet can boost the system and make the nails stronger.
The prevention of Onychorrhexis involves making a few lifestyle modifications like :
Using Protective Gloves
Wearing protective gloves while working with water can keep the nails from becoming weak.
Avoid Long Hours in Water
Prolonged exposure to water can be highly damaging for the nails. Avoid working or swimming for a long time in water.
Avoid Chemical Irritation
Exposure to strong chemicals, as found in many nail polish removers, can cause irritation in the nails and skin of sufferers. Use of mild varieties of nail polish removers can help prevent this condition.
Onychorrhexis Side Effects
There are usually no side effects from use of moisturizers unless an individual happens to suffer from allergies from use of moisturizers. People who are allergic to moisturizers can go for hypoallergenic or unscented moisturizers.
Onychorrhexis does not give rise to any long-term complications though they can affect the shape and appearance of nails for a long time. Otherwise, there are no significant dangers from this disease.
Is Onychorrhexis Contagious?
Onychorrhexis is not a contagious disease. Unaffected individuals are at no risk of contracting this disorder from affected people.
Want to get an idea of how brittle fingernails look like in sufferers? Take a look at these Onychorrhexis images and know all about Onychorrhexis appearance.
Picture 1 – Onychorrhexis
Source - findmeacure
Picture 2 – Onychorrhexis Image
Source – quia
If you are suffering from Onychorrhexis yourself or have someone in your family who has it, it is better to try home remedies for some days. If the condition of the nails worsen or show no improvement despite treatment, you should get in touch with a doctor as there might be some serious condition at work. Early medical assistance will lead to a proper diagnosis followed by accurate treatment resulting in quicker recovery for you.
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Written by anirudh
on April 5th, 2011. The article was last updated on September 2nd, 2011