Calcium is an important nutrient that plays a role in several bodily functions, including supporting nail and bone health. As such, some people with calcium deficiencies may experience dry, brittle nails.

Calcium deficiencies result from insufficient calcium in the diet or the body not absorbing calcium properly.

This article discusses how calcium deficiencies might affect the nails and how to treat this.

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According to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body.

Around 1% of the body’s calcium supports bodily functions, including nerve signaling and heart or muscle functioning. The body stores the remaining 99% in the teeth and bones.

Calcium levels in the teeth and bones may be a sign of their overall health.

In one 2018 review, researchers looked at the relationship between nail health and bone density. Nails have a different substance to that of bones, but poor nail health could be an indirect way of assessing the risk of bone conditions.

The study found some evidence to suggest that nail health could be a sign of general bone health. However, the authors concluded that more research is necessary to confirm this relationship.

When a person consumes too much or little calcium through their diet or supplements, it can cause several potential health problems.

According to the ODS, some people may not notice that they have a calcium deficiency for a long time. Calcium deficiencies sometimes cause no immediate symptoms, which makes them difficult to detect.

When the body does not absorb enough calcium, it uses its stored supply in the bones. Over time, this can weaken the bones and cause more serious complications.

People with severe calcium deficiencies may develop symptoms that affect the nails first. For example, the nails can become weak, become brittle, and grow more slowly than usual.

According to one 2010 paper, nearly all nutritional deficiencies can slow nail growth. Not everyone who experiences slower nail growth will have a calcium deficiency, however.

The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD) state that nutritional deficiencies are usually not the cause of brittle nails.

They suggest that frequent wetting and drying of the nails is a more common cause of this. They also note that iron deficiencies are more likely to cause brittle nails than calcium deficiencies.

Nail problems can be a symptom of calcium deficiencies, so they are important to monitor. However, the underlying cause of nail problems may be a different nutritional deficiency or health concern.

There are no major health complications associated with brittle nails. However, they may break more easily when brittle, which could lead to a fungal nail infection if a fungus gets under the nail.

Calcium deficiencies can lead to more serious health complications, such as an increased risk of bone problems and fractures.

If the nails are brittle, thin, or weak, there are several steps that someone can take to improve nail health.

The AOCD recommend trying the following self-care tips:

  • using lotions that contain alpha-hydroxy acids or lanolin
  • keeping the nails dry throughout the day, such as by using rubber gloves while washing up
  • keeping the nails smooth to avoid parts catching and breaking
  • avoiding the use of metal tools on the nails
  • buffing the nails in the same direction that they grow
  • taking oral biotin supplements

Calcium deficiency may cause no symptoms during the early stages. The body will use calcium stores in the bones and teeth to compensate for deficiencies, and this can prevent noticeable symptoms.

However, without proper treatment, calcium deficiency can lead to several health complications over time. According to the ODS, some potential complications include:

  • low bone mass, or osteopenia
  • osteoporosis
  • bone fractures and breaks

They also state that calcium deficiency could increase the risk of:

  • cancer
  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • high blood pressure
  • preeclampsia during pregnancy

Weakened, brittle, or slow-growing nails tend not to be the result of a calcium deficiency. Frequently wetting and drying the nails is the most common cause of these nail problems.

People with nail problems can take steps to help strengthen their nails at home. If home remedies do not work, talk with a doctor about other effective ways to strengthen the nails.

If there are other symptoms alongside brittle nails, a doctor can help identify the possible cause. In some cases, the cause will be a calcium deficiency. In other cases, the cause may be a different nutritional deficiency or health problem.

At first, calcium deficiencies tend to cause no or only minimal symptoms. The body uses calcium supplies in the bones to prevent symptoms. However, without treatment, symptoms and complications can occur over time.

For example, calcium depletion in the bones can weaken them and increase the risk of fractures and other injuries. Talk with a doctor about steps to improve nail strength if home remedies are not working.

Brittle, weak, or slow-growing nails may indicate a calcium deficiency. However, more common causes include frequently wetting and drying the nails and other nutritional deficiencies.