Cracks in the nails of the hands and feet

, medical expert
Last reviewed: 07.09.2022

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Nails, like a hairstyle, should always be impeccable - and this is an indicator not only of grooming, but also of the general health of a woman. But what if unforeseen problems appear - for example, a crack on the nail? Moreover, what if no home methods help to cope with the misfortune?

If the problem does not go away, or even worsens or recurs, then you need to look for the cause in the general condition of the body. It makes no sense to hide a crack on the nail: it is important to find the provoking factor and neutralize it. If this succeeds, then the crack will disappear on its own.


According to statistics, one person out of five has one or another problem with nails. In this case, most often such problems are caused by various internal diseases or skin pathologies. Cracks are most often formed as a result of incorrect manicure procedures, overly strict diets and vitamin and mineral deficiency, as well as against the background of ignoring hand protection during cleaning, cleaning, washing dishes, etc.

Causes of the cracks in the nail

Nails have a layered structure: probably, many have noticed that when hitting the nail plate, or with strong squeezing or twisting, it can crack. Such a crack gradually increases in size - especially if dust, sand, hairs, etc. Get into the damaged area.

The nail plate is formed in the root area, called the matrix. We can say that any violation that occurs in this zone can lead to a failure in growth and further inferiority of the nail. In particular, cracks can also form.

Infections - both fungal and bacterial - can also severely damage the plate and root of the nail.

Lack of vitamins and minerals, disturbances in trophic processes have an extremely negative effect on the development and growth of the nail tissue, which eventually becomes weakened, thinned and vulnerable to any external influences.

Violations during manicure work can cause damage to the nail and even directly to the matrix. Cracks on the nail often appear after improper processing with a nail file or illiterate removal of the cuticle.

Damage to the nail is caused even by substances familiar to us, such as detergents and cleaning products (including those for washing dishes), chlorine, acetone solutions. To prevent negative influences, hands must be protected by wearing protective gloves.

Risk factors

A crack in the nail appears as a result of a variety of diseases and conditions that can disrupt the formation and growth of the plate:

  • dystrophic processes occurring under the influence of a genetic factor (we are talking about onychogryphosis, leukonychia, platonychia, etc.);
  • pathological nail changes - grooves, detachments resulting from violations of the endocrine system;
  • systemic diseases, internal diseases - for example, chronic problems with the kidneys, cardiovascular or respiratory system;
  • dermatological pathologies like eczema or psoriasis;
  • mechanical or chemical damage;
  • beriberi, disorders of mineral and water-salt metabolism.


The nail plate, as well as the skin and hair, belongs to the horny structures. The nail is essentially a large number of lamellar layers, with keratin fibers located between them. At the same time, the degree of strength of the plate is dependent on the concentration of cysteic acid in them, which usually has a genetic condition.

The nail is colorless in nature, and its structure consists of pores, which ensures adequate air exchange and moisturizing processes. The layers and areas in between are filled with oil and moisture, which together provide elasticity and a healthy appearance to the nail. With a lack of moisture or fat, the structure of the nails deteriorates, the layers are separated from each other, cracks may occur.

The formation of the nail begins with the matrix zone. This zone has an excellent blood supply: the rich pink shade of the initially transparent nail plate is proof of this. If the blood supply worsens for any reason, then the health and appearance of the nail invariably suffers.

The nail roller, in the absence of damage on it, is designed to cover the plate from external adverse influences, including infectious invasion.

Symptoms of the cracks in the nail

Symptoms of the appearance of cracks in the nails are usually very indicative and noticeable. Probably, any person who is not indifferent to their own health will quickly pay attention to changes in the hands and feet.

The first signs of pathology are different, and their appearance should be responded to immediately:

  • change in the color shade of the nails, the appearance of grayish or yellowish stripes;
  • compaction or thinning of the plate, detachment, the appearance of chips;
  • zonal destruction of the nail, inflammatory processes in the periungual region.

Usually, all these symptoms are clearly visible and allow you to start treatment on time. Sometimes there are additional disorders in the form of pain, itching, swelling of the affected finger. In this case, you need to see a medical specialist as soon as possible.

A crack on the fingernail caused by mechanical trauma is often accompanied by pain and other unpleasant sensations. If nothing is done, then the plate can even split in two, which further exacerbates the problem. The fingers are easily contaminated, which contributes to the rapid penetration of the infection into the damaged tissue: as a result, inflammation occurs, up to an increase in body temperature and the appearance of signs of general intoxication.

Cracked toenails are especially painful because a person has to walk in shoes that put extra pressure on the damaged area. In this case, a fungal infection often joins, because closed shoes usually have optimal conditions for the growth and development of the fungus. The treatment of such a pathology is long, requiring considerable effort and patience on the part of the patient.

A crack on the finger near the nail can also be a sign of mycosis, and if not treated, the lesion will quickly spread directly to the nail plate. However, skin cracks caused by dehydration, beriberi, hormonal problems usually do not spread to the nails, although they themselves cause considerable discomfort. You should be especially wary if the skin cracks against the background of diabetes: infection in this situation is especially dangerous and can lead to very unpleasant consequences. [1]

A longitudinal crack in the nail may be related to onychorrhexis, a disease in which the plates split and chip off longitudinally. [2] In most patients, this pathology is the result of a dystrophic process associated with metabolic disorders. So, a crack along the nail on the hand is often caused by such problems:

  • dermatological diseases (mycoses, psoriasis, eczema);
  • injuries (including manicure);
  • exposure to chemicals, aggressive solutions;
  • frequent stress, neuroses;
  • blood diseases;
  • infectious pathologies.

The nails of the hands are always more likely to suffer from cracks and peeling, and this despite the fact that the fungal infection "loves" the feet and toes more. A vertical crack on the nail can exist both separately and in multiple quantities. The divergence of the plate usually begins on the free side, gradually deepening towards the nail base, and sometimes expanding.

But a crack under the nail on the hand is rarely related to onychorrhexis and is provoked mainly by a foreign body getting under the plate: this can be a needle, wire, plant thorns, etc. Damage is accompanied by unpleasant sensations, even pain. With deep trauma, suppuration may develop.

A transverse crack in the nail has many common causes with onychorrhexis:

  • improper manicure work, violations during grinding and filing;
  • regular traumatic injuries (for example, in patients engaged in certain activities: musicians, furniture assemblers, etc.).

Often, white cracks on the nails are the result of a common bad habit of nail biting: this problem is especially common in children of primary school age.

Constant mechanical impacts can lead to the fact that a sufficiently large crack is formed on the nail of the thumb and toe. Such a violation is characterized by the fact that as the plate grows, it will diverge to the sides, simultaneously violating the structure of the soft tissues and causing severe pain. In such a situation, it is recommended to glue the plate with an antibacterial patch or cover it with shellac: a strong layer of gel polish will hold the split and prevent infection from penetrating. As the nail grows, it is trimmed until the crack disappears.

The same is done if cracks form on extended nails. The procedure is performed in the salon, by a professional specialist.

Cracks in the nails of a child

Problems with nails in childhood always require a medical consultation, since there are quite a few reasons for the problem. And it's not just infections, skin or systemic diseases. It is necessary to pay attention to the mental state of the child, his mood, behavior. Children's neurosis and stress almost always affect the state of health. In addition, children often like to bite their nails: this is due not only to constant nervous tension, but also to a lack of certain vitamins and microelements in the body.

Other possible factors should not be excluded:

  • mechanical shocks to the nail phalanx;
  • infections (fungal or microbial);
  • allergic processes;
  • dermatological problems, endocrinological, vascular or neurological disorders;
  • prolonged use of medications (for example, antibiotics);
  • wrong diet.

In all cases, the appearance of cracks in children requires consultation not only of a pediatrician, but also of a dermatologist, endocrinologist, and gastroenterologist.

Complications and consequences

Cracked nails can progress if not given proper attention to their treatment and prevention. Such ignoring the problem in most cases leads to an unfavorable result: an infection (most often a fungal one) joins, and external disturbances are also supplemented by unpleasant sensations in the form of pain, burning, itching, etc.

In addition, with the long-term existence of pathology, general immunity also suffers, which affects the whole state of the body:

  • exacerbated chronic diseases;
  • allergic processes appear;
  • the risk of infection spreading to the limits of the nail plates increases.

When a crack grows on the nail for a long period, the problem can become chronic: the immune defense weakens, and it becomes more and more difficult to get rid of the scourge.

It is better to treat any disease on time: including, this also applies to violations of the health of the skin and appendages.

Diagnostics of the cracks in the nail

If cracked nails appear, you should consult a dermatologist. He will examine the nail plates under a special light, evaluate their general condition and indicators of density, color shade, transparency, etc. It is often possible to accurately determine the root cause of cracks using a microscopic method, spectral microelement analysis, and a study of the level of vitamins in the body. In some cases, you have to seek advice from highly specialized doctors - for example, a gastroenterologist, endocrinologist, surgeon, etc.

Analyzes in the laboratory are carried out after taking a particle of the nail plate: the probability of fungal, streptococcal and staphylococcal lesions is assessed. Additionally, blood is examined to detect internal diseases in the body - for example, inflammatory processes, anemia, etc.

Instrumental diagnostics is activated if any internal problems in the body are suspected. For example, an ultrasound examination of the abdominal cavity, thyroid gland, chest x-ray, etc., may be prescribed.

Differential diagnosis

Differential diagnosis is carried out with the following pathologies:

  • onychomycosis - fungal nail infection;
  • nail psoriasis (often occurs against the background of skin psoriasis);
  • nail eczema (usually accompanies chronic eczema of the feet and hands);
  • traumatic injuries of the fingers;
  • chemical influences (acids, alkalis, oil products on the nail, frequent use of gel polishes, etc.);
  • lichen planus (applies to the nail plates with a generalized or atypical form of the disease);
  • beriberi, demineralization processes, systemic diseases.

Treatment of the cracks in the nail

Treatment of cracks in the nails is carried out in a complex, with mandatory caring procedures and nutrition correction. Sometimes the usual cutting of the damaged area with scissors helps: over time, a new healthy area grows. To prevent the crack from repeating, the plate is glued with an antimicrobial patch until it is completely grown back. If the damage is significant and captures the entire nail surface, then the intervention of a surgeon may be required.

When the root cause of the problem is a disease of the internal organs, or a systemic disease, it is imperative to visit a doctor and conduct a thorough diagnosis. If the underlying pathology is not eliminated, then it will be almost impossible to get rid of cracks forever.

If the lesion was provoked by contact with aggressive chemical solutions, then it is necessary to take measures to protect the hands - for example, wear rubber gloves regularly.

The problem associated with a fungal infection is solved by the doctor on an individual basis. For example, neglected mycoses are treated for a long time - for several months or even up to a year. It is possible to use systemic antifungal drugs: Fluconazole, Itraconazole, Terbinafine, Ketoconazole. Additionally, it is recommended to connect external treatment, which includes baths with a solution of potassium permanganate, salt and sodium bicarbonate.

In some cases, the doctor prescribes a specific treatment using 1-2% tinol or 5% chrysarobin with chloroform. After the procedure, an antifungal agent is applied. Such treatment is continued for at least 2 weeks, after which the affected area is cut down and the antifungal drug is continued to be applied under the adhesive plaster for another month. Such treatment is more often prescribed to patients whose fissure problem is associated with eczema or dermatitis. The total duration of therapy is until the regrowth of a completely healthy nail plate.

It is possible to use other topical preparations, such as Exoderil, Bifonazole, Fukortsin, etc.

Inside, it is recommended to take special multivitamin-mineral complex products.

Medications that a doctor may prescribe


An antifungal agent prescribed by a doctor, choosing individual dosages depending on the type and severity of the infection. Possible adverse reactions: headache, sleep disturbances, general weakness, lethargy.


It is used for onychomycosis, usually in the amount of 250 mg once a day. Treatment can be long, for several weeks and even months. The drug is usually well accepted by the body, and side effects are rare or mild.


Antifungal agent for external use. As a rule, Exoderil is used for application to the affected areas twice a day, for several months (up to six months). Adverse reactions are rare and are expressed in local manifestations (redness, itching, local skin irritation).


Antiseptic and disinfectant with broad antimicrobial and antifungal activity. Used to treat affected areas up to 3 times a day. Duration of application - until the complete disappearance of the symptoms of the crack. Fukortsin is not prescribed for children under 12 years of age.

Calcium D 3  Nycomed

Chewable calcium tablets help strengthen nails and improve their structure. Take 1 tablet twice a day. During treatment, hypersensitivity reactions, digestive disorders are possible.


A combination of calcium citrate and carbonate. It is prescribed for children from the age of five and adults. The average daily dose is 2 tablets. The duration of admission is determined individually. Side effects are extremely rare and are expressed in the form of allergic reactions or nausea.

How to fix a crack on a nail?

If the crack problem appeared suddenly - for example, after mechanical damage to the plate - then it is better to visit a manicurist who can "fix" the defect professionally. It is better to do this procedure as early as possible, otherwise the situation will worsen.

When it is not possible to visit a nail salon, it is recommended to take the following actions:

  • independently polish the affected nail surface with a buff with a fine-grained nail file (non-metallic);
  • apply an adhesive base to the polished area (for convenience, you can use a manicure brush);
  • when the glue dries, put a miniature piece of silk on the treated area, then fix it twice on top with glue;
  • after the glue dries, the place must again be treated with a file or a buff and covered with a fixing varnish.

In extreme cases, you can do without glue and silk fabric, using a piece of ordinary napkin and clear varnish. True, this procedure will not have such a lasting effect, but it will help to “hold out” until the moment of professional restoration in the salon.

Vitamins for cracked nails

To prevent or accelerate the healing of a crack in the nail, it is necessary to ensure the intake of essential vitamin substances into the body. It is no secret that the lack of vitamins and minerals leads to dryness, brittleness, deformation and pallor of the skin appendages. How to make up for this shortcoming?

The best solution would be to revise the diet, thanks to which we can get the main and easily digestible substances. Pharmaceutical preparations are also suitable, but their absorption is somewhat worse (in addition, pharmacy products can cause allergies in the patient). In any case, it is better to consult a doctor about this.

With excessive dryness and brittleness against the background of thickening of the edges of the nail plate, a deficiency of iodine, calcium or magnesium, or vitamins A and E is usually suspected. The mentioned vitamins are fat-soluble: this suggests that they can only be absorbed in combination with fats. That is why the lack of tocopherol and retinol is often observed in women who follow strict diets with reduced fat intake.

Calcium is an important component found in cheeses, dairy products, cabbage, greens and nuts. To improve the absorption of calcium, it is better to take it in combination with vitamin D: the latter is produced by the body under the influence of sunlight.

Iodine is a trace element that is very necessary for the body, which is present in sufficient quantities in seafood, greens, carrots, pineapples. Thanks to iodine, the normal function of the thyroid gland is established, and the hair and nail plates become stronger.

Magnesium is a key component found in beans, nuts, cheeses, cereals, bananas and berries. In addition to magnesium, food plants are rich in silicon: in the absence of this element, nails become brittle, microcracks may appear.

You can improve the condition and accelerate the healing of cracked nails by including gelatin dishes in your diet. The menu can be represented by meat or fish aspic, jellies, mousses, etc. Thanks to gelatin, it is often possible to improve not only the condition of the nails, but also the joints.

Physiotherapy treatment

To perform physiotherapy procedures, special equipment is used, which, as a rule, is installed in physical rooms. Treatment can be carried out both on an outpatient and inpatient basis.

The procedures involve exposure to different types of energy - quantum, magnetic, electrical and ultrasonic. To get rid of cracks in the nail, the doctor may prescribe:

  • ultrahigh frequency therapy;
  • electrophoresis;
  • phonophoresis;
  • laser treatment;
  • shock wave therapy;
  • radiotherapy, etc.

It should be borne in mind that physiotherapy will not be able to eradicate the cause of the appearance of cracks in the nails. Therefore, in the course of treatment, additional methods are used to eliminate the initial factor. If this is not done, then the problem may recur soon.

Alternative Treatment

A lot of alternative recipes exist to strengthen nails and prevent pathological changes in them. The simplest ways to get rid of cracks are:

  • An affordable and simple remedy for cracked nails is vegetable oil infused with herbs. It is not difficult to cook it: they take fresh or dried herbs (sage, tarragon, cilantro, or even carrot tops are suitable), chop and pour unrefined vegetable oil. The amount of oil is determined visually: it should completely cover the green layer, but no more. The agent is insisted in a closet for 2 days, after which treatment begins. Take 1 tbsp. L. Oil half an hour before breakfast, daily, and also rubbed into the nail plates twice a day (morning and night).
  • With a lack of calcium, egg shells are collected, washed well and dried, calcined in a hot dry frying pan, ground in a coffee grinder. The resulting powder is stored in a tightly sealed container, preferably in a refrigerator. Taken orally, 1 tsp. Daily, with food, for 2-3 weeks. Such calcium from the shell is absorbed much better than from most pharmaceutical preparations.
  • Prepare an ointment for cracks. Mix 20 ml of marigold oil, half of boiled chicken yolk and 3 g of beeswax, preheated in a water bath. The agent is stirred, without removing from heat, and brought to the consistency of sour cream. The tool is used for rubbing into the nails at night.

Herbal treatment

  • Every day, several times a day, they drink a freshly brewed infusion of horsetail. This plant is known for its diuretic properties, but few people know that it still copes well with various diseases of the nails and hair. At least 2 glasses of infusion should be drunk per day.
  • A medicinal collection is prepared from three parts of elderberry color, two parts of couch grass root, and one part of nettle leaves, alder fruits and shepherd's purse. Take one teaspoon of the resulting mixture, pour 250 ml of boiling water in a thermos, insist overnight, filter the next morning. They drink a ten-day course, three times a day, 100 ml. Every day you need to prepare a fresh infusion.
  • An external remedy is prepared from 15 ml of aloe juice, 1 tbsp. L. Homemade cream, 20 drops of sea buckthorn and burdock oils, the same amount of marigold oil. All ingredients are mixed, rubbed into the nail plates 2-3 times a day, daily.


In many cases, when cracked nails appear, homeopathy helps to cope with the problem. We are talking about specific, effective and safe drugs that are allowed to be taken by both adults and children. The main thing is to find a good homeopathic doctor who will select the optimal remedy. The choice can be made in favor of such homeopathic remedies:

  • Thuja oksidentalis - is prescribed to treat brittle, crumbling nails, when they peel, deform, etc. It also helps with nail psoriasis.
  • Sepia - used for cracks located on the side of the free edge, as well as for frequent burrs, yellowness, deformation of the plates.
  • Acidum fluoricum - can be used if the nails break, become covered with cracks, grooves, longitudinal stripes.
  • Alumina - helps with dry skin and cracked swollen nail plates.
  • Antimonium krudum - will help if the nails are covered with cracks, crevices, growths, as well as with subungual hyperkeratosis.
  • Arsenicum album - is prescribed for thinning and fragility of the plates.
  • Graphite - helps against deformation, thickening and cracks.
  • Psorinum - used for fragility and brittleness.

If cracked nails are caused by a fungal infection, then remedies such as Silicea terra, Argilla, Veronica officinalis are beneficial. Painful cracks are eliminated with the help of Berberis vulgaris.

Dosages of drugs are individual and are determined by a specialist in homeopathic direction.


In some situations, when drug treatment does not have the desired effect, one has to resort to cardinal methods - for example, to remove the nail plate. The procedure is carried out in several ways:

  • The laser method involves the use of a laser beam with a diameter less than 1 mm. The beam simultaneously removes both the affected nail and the fungal pathogen, has a gentle effect, prevents the recurrence of mycosis.
  • Surgical intervention is most often used if the disease is advanced: the surgeon separates the plate from the base with a scalpel and removes it, after which he rinses the wound with an antibacterial agent. The patient can go home almost immediately after the procedure.
  • Chemical removal involves the use of a special tape and a chemical ointment reagent. The tape with ointment is kept on the affected nail for about four days, after which it is removed along with the softened plate.
  • The radio wave method is a kind of "evaporation" of the affected nail areas. The procedure is performed under local anesthesia, so patients endure the session without much discomfort and can start their normal daily activities on the second day after the intervention.


Cracked nails are not only ugly, they indicate serious health problems in the body. To avoid this problem, you should properly care for your nails, as well as nourish and moisturize - not only fingers, but the whole body. To do this, it is enough to follow relatively simple preventive recommendations.

  • Do not clean the house or wash dishes without first wearing rubber gloves. As for the feet, you need to monitor the quality and cleanliness of the shoes from its inside: the shoes should not soar, they should be fresh and clean, without unpleasant odors, moisture and dirt.
  • You can not bite and pick your nails, try to correct some defects - for example, ingrowth: this should be done by a specialist.
  • It is important to observe the rules of personal hygiene, wash your hands and feet regularly, and prevent the development of a fungal infection.
  • Manicures and pedicures should be done only by specialists in proven salons.
  • You need to eat right, drink enough fluids throughout the day, lead a healthy lifestyle. The diet should consist of about 70% vegetables, fruits, greens.

The recommendations listed are simple, but they help maintain the health, strength and beautiful appearance of the nail plates.


If you use adequate treatment in a timely manner, selected taking into account the root cause of the problem, then a crack in the nail will have a favorable prognosis. If untreated, the crack can become more complicated: for example, inflammatory foci often appear, the plate is deformed, the infection joins and spreads. Timely measures taken will help to avoid trouble and maintain the health of hands and feet.

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