Local causes

The nail may be damaged by repeated trauma or by chemical agents such as detergents, alkalis, various solvents, sugar solutions and especially by hot water. The nail plate takes a minimum of 5-6 months to regenerate and therefore it is vulnerable to daily insults. Housework is commonly the cause; particularly at risk are the first three fingers of the dominant hand. Anything that slows the rate of nail growth will increase the risk. Cosmetic causes are rare. Some varnishes will damage the superficial layers of the nail. Drying may be enhanced by some nail varnish removers. Soaking fingers in warm soapy solution, for removing the cuticle, is especially dangerous; this is common practice among manicurists. It has been shown that climatic and seasonal factors may affect the hydration of the nail plate.

Fragility, due to thinning of the nail plate, may be caused by a reduction in the length of the matrix. Diminution or even complete arrest of nail formation over a variable width may be the result of many dermatoses such as eczema, lichen planus, psoriasis (rare) and impairment of the peripheral circulation. The frequency of nail fragility in alopecia areata lends credence to the popular belief that nail and hair disorders are often associated.

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