Brittle nail syndrome: a pathogenesis-based approach with a proposed grading system

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005 Oct;53(4):644-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2004.09.002.


Brittle nail syndrome is a heterogeneous abnormality, characterized by increased fragility of the nail plate. Brittle nails affect about 20% of the population and women are affected twice as frequently as men. The vast majority of patients experience brittle nails as a significant cosmetic problem and a substantial number indicate that these nail abnormalities are painful, impair daily activities, and may have a negative impact on occupational abilities. Pathogenic factors leading to brittle nails are factors that impair intercellular adhesion of the corneocytes of the nail plate or factors that cause a pathologic nail formation by involving the matrix. Clinical features of brittle nail syndrome are onychoschizia and onychorrhexis: the impairment of intercellular adhesive factors of the nail plate is expressed as onychoschizia, whereas the involvement of the nail matrix is expressed as onychorrhexis. Although impairment of life quality has not been evaluated for patients with brittle nail syndrome, the reduction of life quality in other nail problems has been studied and is evident. A proposed scoring system of key features of brittle nails is presented, and therapeutic approaches focussed on the pathogenic factors are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Nail Diseases / classification*
  • Nail Diseases / pathology
  • Nail Diseases / physiopathology
  • Nails / chemistry
  • Nails / pathology
  • Quality of Life