Can Vitamin Deficiency Cause Onycholysis? Understanding The Relationship


Don’t stop eating well just because you are getting bigger and stronger, healthy eating habits should be practiced in all areas of life regardless of age. Your overall health, energy levels, and even appearance depend on the quality of your diet. What you eat affects everything from your hair to your skin and the health of your nails. Are they smooth, perfectly round and have a healthy pinky shine? Or do you have to rely on fake nails, or wear nail polish to hide unsightly nail problems? To maintain healthy nails, you need to nourish them from the inside out. In this article, we would like to know whether vitamin deficiency can cause onycholysis, also known as nail detachment.

What is Onycholysis?

Onycholysis is the separation of the nail, then the latter gradually separates from the nail bed, and this part of the pink skin is covered with the nail, in some cases, it is completely covered. Separation occurs gradually and it is painless. Trauma happens to be the major cause of onycholysis, even mild trauma can cause onycholysis. If it occurs repeatedly, such as banging on a keyboard or counter-stopping with long fingernails every day.

Onycholysis can also be caused by pushing manicure tools under the nail to remove dirt or smooth the nail. However, the relationship between vitamin deficiency and onycholysis is worth researching and learning about. So we will weigh this against other nail abnormalities related to vitamin or nutrient deficiency.

Vitamin Deficiency Cause Onycholysis

Vitamin/nutrient deficiency and nail

Vitamin and mineral deficiency can result in dry, cracked, brittle, and irregularly shaped nails. These are common conditions that cause nail abnormalities such as onycholysis. A normal nail plate is composed of various nutrients in a certain optimal ratio. So almost any nutrient or Vitamin deficiency can cause significant changes in the nail plate. Some nutritional abnormalities can also affect the nail bed. Changes can be confirmed clinically or by biochemical tests. For example, the nails of children infected with kwashiorkor are shown to have increased concentration of sodium and calcium and decreased concentration of magnesium. Nail iron content may be reduced in patients with iron deficiency anemia. There appears to be a reasonable correlation between the level of nutrients in the body and blood and the concentration of nutrients in the nail plate. This works both ways, vitamin or mineral deficiency causes a decrease in nail concentration. While overdose or poisoning causes an increase in nail concentration.

Nail abnormalities associated with vitamin deficiency

  • Deficiency of B vitamins especially biotin cause grooves to form along the nail bed
  • A diet low in calcium can cause nails to become dry and brittle
  • Lack of folic acid and vitamin C can cause hangnail
  • Lack of essential oils such as Omega-3 diets can cause crack.

All these related together point to the main cause of nail detachment known as onycholysis.

Nutritional deficiencies that tend to occur in nails

Nails are not only an important element of appearance but also reflect the body’s Internal constitution and nutritional status. Nail changes due to malnutrition are usually mild and nonspecific. It is often difficult to suspect nutritional deficiencies just by observing changes in the nails. The nail apparatus consists of the nail plate, a keratinized dead product, and four specialized epithelia, the proximal nail fold, the nail matrix, the nail bed, and the hyponail layer. The majority of the nail plate is made up of hairy ( hard) keratin. Which accounts for 80-90% of the nail plate, and epithelial keratin accounts for 10-20%. The total sulfur content is approximately 10% by weight. Cysteine disulfide bonds within matrix proteins contributed maximally to nail hardness by holding keratin fibers together

Calcium does not contribute to the hardness of the nail. It accounts for only 0.2% of the weight of the nail plate.

The lipid content is relatively low compared to that of the stratum corneum. Glycolic acid and stearic acid are lipids in the nail plate and their presence contributes to water resistance. Despite its water resistance, the hydration status of the nail plate is another factor that determines the hardness of the nail plate. The water content of the nail plate varies widely. But the normal water content is less than 16%, and soft when it is more than 25%. Minerals are another important aspect of nail plate composition. Some of these minerals include iron, sodium, copper, etc.

Other causes of onycholysis

This condition primarily appears on the toenails, but it can also occur on the fingernails. To better understand the various treatments for onycholysis, it is necessary to understand how this phenomenon occurs. In reality, there may be several causes, which will determine the course of treatment and prevention of recurrence.

Mechanical causes in this case are simple or repeated traumas that lead to the avulsion of the nail. Examples include manual trauma or injury such as hitting a nail with a hammer during construction. Tiny shoes can exert unnecessary force on toes, every time you work, the tips of your shoes hit each other, making them weak. Repetitive gesture, this is the case with a runner who runs a marathon and may lose his toenails at the end of the race.

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Finally, a healthy balanced diet is the only way to nourish your nails from the inside out. The health of your nails should be taken as seriously as the health of any other part of your body. To do this, you should avoid: avoid nail polish remover that contains acetone, which dries out your nails. Use nail polish remover only once a month, with only short touch-ups in between, do not remove cuticles at the salon, as this increases your susceptibility to infections. Nails are not tools, avoid using your fingernails to open cans, scrape dried foods off the plate, or pry anything open. Now that you know how onycholysis occurs, the care, precautions, and vitamin deficiency implication, do not desist from the habit of growing a healthy nail.


  • Miles, M., Olsen, L., and Rogers, A.: Recurrent vaginal candidiasis. JA MA 238: 1836–1837, 1977. Google Scholar 
  • LF RayOnycholysis: A classification and studyArch Dermatol(1963)
  • Chen GY, Chen YH, Hsu MM, et al. Onychomadesis and onycholysis associated with capecitabine. Br J Dermatol 2001;145:521–2. PubMed

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Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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