Protect your nails by protecting your hands. Wear gloves, particularly in cold weather or when washing dishes. Excessive hand washing allows water to seep into nails, swelling them and leading to brittleness.
Keep nails short. They're more likely to be damaged when they become long, and they could get in the way of day-to-day tasks. Office work, in particular, can be hard on your hands, as it involves a lot of manual activity. Stay alert, such as by carefully closing drawers so as not to catch your fingers in them.
Poor circulation may also be a contributing factor to brittle nails, so if you think you suffer from this condition, talk with your doctor. Other health problems, such as an underactive thyroid, may harm nail growth and should be discussed with a physician.
Keep an eye out for signs of fungal infections, which are particularly common in senior citizens. Although these infections can be treated, because of ineffective creams or potential side effects from oral medications, some doctors recommend leaving a fungal infection alone and monitoring it [source: Brody].
For more information about brittle nails and other nail-related topics, glance over the list of links below.
Related HowStuffworks Articles
- Begoun, Paula. "Nail Care Dos and Don'ts." Discovery. http://health.discovery.com/centers/healthbeauty/tipstricks/naildosdonts.html
- Brody, Jane E. "Sometimes, Your Nails Can Bite You Back." New York Times. Nov. 1, 2005. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/01/health/01brody.html?pagewanted=all
- Rauh, Sherry. "Healthy Fingernails: Clues About Your Health." WebMD. Feb. 24, 2008. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/healthy-fingernails-clues-about-health
- Wadyka, Sally. "New Ways to Moisturize Those Brittle Nails." New York Times . April 6, 2006. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/06/fashion/thursdaystyles/06skin2.html
- "Brittle nails." University of Maryland Medical Cener. March 30, 2007. http://www.umm.edu/imagepages/9136.htm
- "Brittle nails." Healthnotes. 2004. http://www.physiologics.com/vf/healthnotes/HN_live/Concern/Brittle_Nails.htm
- "Glucosamine." Healthnotes. 2004. http://www.physiologics.com/vf/healthnotes/HN_live/Supp/Glucosamine.htm
- "Miracle Cure for Severe Problem Nails." Sally Hansen. http://www.sallyhansen.com/product.cfm?product=109
- "Nail abnormalities - Overview." University of Maryland Medical Center. April 12, 2007. http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/003247.htm
Today it's second nature to paint your fingernails and toenails. But it's been a long road to here. HowStuffWorks breaks down the colorful history.