Grooves in Fingernails: What It Means When You Have Them

Grooves in Fingernails: What It Means When You Have Them

Grooves in Fingernails: What It Means When You Have Them

They’re not the prettiest of manicures, but are they more than a cosmetic issue? Here’s what a dermatologist and the research have to say.

Fingernails seem to be a fairly uneventful body part. They grow. you cut them Maybe they paint. And that was about it. But in reality, your nails can give you a glimpse of your overall health. When something is going on in your body, your nails can change and sometimes develop ridges. Depending on how the ridges appear in your fingernails, you may want to schedule a doctor’s visit.

What do vertical nail ridges mean?

Lines running from the base of the nail to the tip are the most common form of ridges in fingernails, affecting about 20 percent of adults. In the vast majority of cases, it’s just a sign of aging, says Ivy Lee, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Pasadena, California. Fingernails are primarily made up of keratin, a protein also found in hair and the outer layer of skin. Just as skin becomes drier and hair feels rougher, nails also change with age because the body has a harder time retaining moisture.

Other nail changes

But if you see other changes in the nails, such as You might want to see a doctor, like splitting or color changes, says Dr. Lee. In rare cases, ridges in fingernails can be a sign of anemia, rheumatoid arthritis or cardiovascular problems, according to research in the Online Journal of Indian Dermatology. For example, a single ridge in the center of the nail could be a sign of a nutrient deficiency, such as protein or folic acid. Keep an eye out for these other 11 health secrets your hands are trying to tell you.

What do horizontal nail ridges mean?

Ridges in fingernails that run from side to side are less common and can give you more grip. Also known as Beau’s lines, they could signal an illness or just be a remnant of an old injury, says Dr. Lee. “They arise because nail growth is temporarily halted in the proximal nail matrix, where the fingernail is made,” she says. “They are mostly benign and result from mechanical trauma: manicure, getting your finger caught in the door, etc.”

Sometimes, however, they indicate a skin condition like eczema, psoriasis, or chronic paronychia (an infection of the nail folds that causes the skin to swell and turn red), so examine your skin and fingertips for signs of redness and a rash. Your dermatologist may be able to offer you a treatment option. While you’re at it, take a look at what your nails can reveal about your health.

A symptom of larger health problems

Grooves in nails aren’t just skin related—they can also be a sign of other systemic problems. For example, an overactive or underactive thyroid can affect the hormones responsible for nail, skin, and hair growth, which in some cases can lead to ridged nails. If all 20 fingernails and toenails develop Beau wrinkles at the same time, it could even be an infection like pneumonia, mumps or syphilis, or even a problem with the heart, liver or kidneys, according to research in the Online Journal of Indian Dermatology. Especially if your ridged nails have also become thin, split, discolored, or misshapen, schedule a visit to your dermatologist right away to get to the bottom of the problem, says Dr. Lee. In the meantime, find out about 42 more weird symptoms that may indicate a serious illness.

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