Your fingernails do more than aesthetics – it can say much about your health. Your nails respond to health conditions like thyroid disease, kidney problems, and even stress by changing appearance. Ridges is one of these expected changes, although both vertical and horizontal ridges are not harmful.
Symptoms and Causes of Ridges in Fingernails
There are living cells in your fingers. These cells produce your fingernails. So, fingernail ridges are sometimes due to skin conditions like dry skin, eczema, or a drop in body protein, vitamin A, zinc, or calcium.
Horizontal Ridges in Fingernails
Severe health conditions usually trigger deep horizontal ridges or Beau’s lines. It results in stunted nail growth, except it is promptly treated. Beau’s lines may be connected to acute kidney diseases. But if the Beau’s lines affect all the 20 nails, it may signal health conditions like:
- Thyroid disease
Beau’s lines may also be due to chemotherapy.
Sometimes, when the nails are traumatized, some brown or red spots may develop underneath your nails. An individual who has not experienced nail trauma but with dark brown, black, or red color changes under their nails may be suffering from more severe health conditions, for instance, melanoma and endocarditis.
Vertical Ridges in Fingernails
When you see furrows extend from the tip of your fingernail down to the cuticle, such folds are called vertical ridges or longitudinal bands, or striations. You will most likely find slight vertical ridges in older adults’ fingernails, considering their slower cell turnover. When this happens, the new skins produced underneath the skin surface replace the discarded dead cells.
Some medical conditions may lead to color or textural changes in nails. For instance, trachyonychia is a 20-nail dystrophy where the ridges come with a color change or a textural change, with the nails becoming hard and rough. Likewise, a case of iron deficiency anemia may come with vertical ridges where the nails become spoon-shaped or concave.
How do you diagnose the cause of fingernail ridges?
If you discover unusual changes in your nails, see your doctor for an adequate check immediately. However, if such changes are due to injuries, you should wait for a few weeks to see how the nail heals before visiting your doctor.
But a doctor’s appointment should be immediate if the injury to your fingernails leads to:
- A crushed nail
- Continuous bleeding beneath your nail
- Your nail is torn off
- A sharp cut through your nail
You should be ready to answer a few diagnosis questions from your doctors when you visit. You may have to undergo blood and urine tests to confirm or debunk a possible kidney disease, nutritional deficiencies, or diabetes in some cases.
If the ridges are due to skin condition, your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist for a proper treatment plan. Do not be surprised if your dermatologist takes some fingernail clippings for further analysis. It may be necessary to properly diagnosis the cause of your fingernail ridges.
How do you treat ridges in fingernails?
Most times, fingernail ridges are indications of other health problems. This is why the treatment is usually directed to the underlying causes of these changes. For instance, Beau’s lines may be an indication of diabetes. In that case, the treatment will be directed at controlling your blood sugar.
Eczema and similar skin conditions leading to fingernail ridges can be treated by topical applications of moisturizers and topical ointments. In the case of low minerals or vitamin levels, your doctor may recommend a change in diet or supplements to boost these levels. You can smooth ridges by buffing your fingernails with an emery board.
In any case, always seek the professional advice of your dermatologist on nail treatments to be safe.
While fingernails ridges are usually associated with aging, it is best to observe changes in your fingernails, especially in adults. Experience has shown that fingernail ridges and other nail changes indicate a severe medical problem, including vitamin deficiencies and diabetes, amongst others.