Q&A

Does low estrogen levels affect the toenails?

Q.

I'm curious about women who are going through menopause or who have had hysterectomies and lack the proper amount of estrogen in their systems. I've noticed during my 19 years as a nail techni­cian a similar symp­tom in women lack­ing estrogen: tired toenails.

A.

Q: I'm curious about women who are going through menopause or who have had hysterectomies and lack the proper amount of estrogen in their systems. I've noticed during my 19 years as a nail techni­cian a similar symp­tom in women lack­ing estrogen: tired toenails.

I can usually pick out women with low estrogen levels by looking at their toenails. I know this sounds strange, but in every case the toenails lack luster and have dry ridges, usually on the big toenails. The condition doesn't show up as often on the fingernails.

These clients always tell me they aren't on estrogen. Their general complaint is that their skin is also very dry, regardless of how often they apply a moisturizing lotion. I tell them to mention their complaints to their doctor, and its amazing how many of these customers come back and tell me the doctor put them on estrogen and how they've already no­ticed a difference in their skin and toenails. They say they even feel bet­ter overall.

I would like your opinion on my observations. Also, I understand that some people have problems taking estrogen and I wonder if there is anything else, such as vitamins, that will help this condition.

 A: To the best of my knowledge, there are no specific changes to the nails associated with post-hysterectomy or menopausal women. However, estrogen levels do have an effect on all body systems. It is true that nails become more dry and dull with age, and hormones may indeed play a role in these changes. Changes in the body's hydration levels also affect the skin; thus, I do believe your astute clini­cal observations may be valid. I have had patients tell me the same thing regard­ing estrogen and their nails.

Vitamins occasionally have helped and are therefore worth a try. Biotin, specifically, has been reported to im­prove brittle nails.

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