Nail abnormalities


Nail abnormalities
Nail abnormalities

Nail problems aren't usually caused by anything serious.  Common nail problems include brittle, loose nails that may change colour or shape.

Your nails may change over time

It's normal for nails to:

  • become thicker or break more easily (brittle) as you get older
  • become harder, softer or more brittle during pregnancy - they should be healthier within 6 months of having the baby
  • change colour, become loose and eventually fall off after an injury

Fingernails that fall off after an injury should grow back within 6 months. Toenails can take up to 18 months.

Things you can do to look after your nails

There are some thing you can do to help with common nail problems.


  • wear rubber gloves if your hands are often in water or you regularly use cleaning products
  • clean your nails with a soft nailbrush
  • regularly apply hand cream to your nails and fingertips
  • regularly trim your nails - it may help to cut nails after a shower or bath
  • cut injured, loose nails back to where they are still attached - this helps them to grow back normally


  • do not cut your nails down the edges, and only trim straight across the top to help avoid an ingrown toenail
  • do not clean under your nails with sharp objects
  • do not wear shoes that pinch your toes, especially when exercising
  • do not bite or pick your nails or the skin around them
  • do not ignore fungal nail infections on your skin - such as athlete's foot

See a GP if:

  • a nail has changed shape, changed colour or fallen off and you do not know why
  • the skin around your nails has become sore, red, swollen and warm (paronychia), this can be a sign of infection or ingrown toenail

See a podiatrist if:

  • your nails are too tough to cut or you can't reach them

Some GPs may be able to refer you for podiatry.  You can also pay to see a podiatrist privately.

Find a podiatrist


Most nail problems are caused by:

  • injuries or biting your nails
  • staining your nails - for example, by smoking or applying a lot of nail varnish
  • not regularly trimming your nails, or cutting them at an angle
  • your hands often being in water or cleaning products
  • a fungal nail infection

Nail problems can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious or long term condition, such as:

Some medicines can also cause nail problems. Check the side effects of any medicine you're taking.

Call NHS 111 Wales

If you can't speak to your GP or don't know what to do next call NHS 111 Wales.

The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website
Last Updated: 05/03/2024 13:52:55