What are the possible causes and remedies for abnormal nails?

Symptom Database

Abnormal nails can be a cause of concern for many individuals. Nail abnormalities, also known as nail disorders, can indicate underlying health issues or simply be a result of poor nail care. Understanding the possible causes and remedies for abnormal nails is essential for maintaining nail health and addressing any potential nail conditions.

Possible Causes of Abnormal Nails

There are several factors that can contribute to abnormal nail growth or the development of nail problems. Some of the common causes include:

  • Malnutrition: A lack of essential vitamins and minerals in the diet can lead to unhealthy nails. Nutrients like biotin, iron, and zinc are crucial for nail health.
  • Infections: Fungal or bacterial infections can cause changes in the appearance and texture of nails. These infections can be a result of poor hygiene or exposure to contaminated environments.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions like psoriasis, eczema, thyroid disorders, and diabetes can affect nail health. These conditions can cause nail discoloration, thickening, or brittleness.
  • Trauma: Injuries to the nails, such as crushing or repetitive trauma, can lead to abnormal nail growth. This can include the formation of ridges, pitting, or even the loss of nails.
  • Chemical exposure: Regular exposure to harsh chemicals, such as cleaning agents or nail polish removers, can weaken the nails and make them more prone to abnormalities.

Common Nail Abnormalities and Their Remedies

1. Discoloration

Abnormal nail coloration can range from yellowing to darkening or even the presence of white spots. This can be caused by various factors, including fungal infections, nutritional deficiencies, or underlying medical conditions.


  • Keep nails clean and dry to prevent fungal infections.
  • Ensure a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • Apply a clear base coat before using colored nail polish to prevent staining.

2. Brittle or Weak Nails

Nails that easily break, split, or peel are often a sign of weak or brittle nails. This can be caused by excessive exposure to water, harsh chemicals, or nutritional deficiencies.


  • Avoid prolonged exposure to water and wear gloves when performing household chores.
  • Moisturize nails and cuticles regularly with nourishing oils or creams.
  • Include biotin-rich foods like eggs, nuts, and whole grains in your diet.

3. Nail Thickening

Thickened nails can be a result of fungal infections, psoriasis, or circulation problems. They may appear yellowish and become difficult to trim or maintain.


  • Consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment of underlying conditions.
  • Keep nails trimmed and filed to prevent further thickening.
  • Apply antifungal treatments as prescribed by a doctor.

4. Nail Pitting

Pitting refers to the presence of small depressions or dents on the surface of the nails. It is commonly associated with psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune condition.


  • Seek medical advice for the management of psoriasis and its effects on nail health.
  • Protect nails from trauma or injury to prevent worsening of pitting.
  • Consider using nail treatments that help smooth the surface of the nails.

5. Ingrown Nails

Ingrown nails occur when the edges of the nails grow into the surrounding skin, causing pain, redness, and swelling. This can be a result of improper nail trimming or wearing tight-fitting shoes.


  • Soak the affected area in warm water to reduce inflammation.
  • Gently lift the ingrown edge of the nail using a clean, sterilized tool.
  • Wear comfortable shoes that provide enough room for the toes.


Abnormal nails can be indicative of underlying health issues or simply a result of poor nail care. Understanding the possible causes and remedies for nail abnormalities is crucial for maintaining nail health. By addressing the root causes and following proper nail care practices, individuals can improve the appearance and overall health of their nails. If the abnormalities persist or worsen, it is always recommended to seek professional medical advice for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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