Brittleness of the nails, or fragilitas ungium, is common, especially among middle-aged women. It is seen much more frequently in winter, probably because of the drier air. Breaking off of nails may be so mild that only little of the edge chips away, leaving it a little roughened or serrated. In severe instances large enough sections may come away so as to be painful (the portion being broken off to the "quick") and open the nail base and folds to infection. The entire thickness of the nail may cleave cleanly or only sections or layers remove themselves as flakes.
The cause of brittle nails may be some definite entity, masked or obvious, such as syphilis. Cutaneous diseases, such as atopic eczema of the fingers, psoriasis, lichen planus, contact dermatitis or dermatitis venenata, may account for this nuisance. Diseases of the nervous system, as well as undue physical and chemical
CORNBLEET T. BRITTLE NAILS: A CAUSE. Arch Derm Syphilol. 1950;62(3):436–439. doi:10.1001/archderm.1950.01530160090015
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