Why do my nails have ridges?

Why do my nails have ridges?

Your body has a lot of ways of communicating with you. Certain parts of your body can communicate the state of your health. This is why you need to worry about any changes in your body. Contrary to popular knowledge, your nails can also tell a lot about your body. Many people assume that their nails only reveal a lot about their tastes in colours. While this is true, it is not the only case. Your nails can also provide valuable insight into your general health. Your nails may go through many changes, depending on what is happening to your body. One of the most common changes is the development of ridges in nails. This write-up seeks to answer the question, “why do my nails have ridges?

What are ridges in fingernails or nail ridges?

Nail ridges are small indentations on the nail. They normally begin at the cuticle on the nail bed. They are usually thin, raised, and unpigmented, showing up on the fingernail’s raised part. They occur in different forms:

Vertical ridges

Vertical ridges are furrows running from your fingernail tip to the cuticle. In some cases, they are referred to as longitudinal striations or bands. Older adults often develop slight vertical nail ridges due to their slowed cell turnover. Cell turnover is when new skin cells produced below the skin’s surface rise to take the place of the old dead cells discarded from the surface.

Horizontal ridges

Horizontal ridges, also known as Beau lines, are common for ridged nails. The ridges usually run from one side of the nail to the next. They are usually slightly deeper than the latter. Horizontal ridges are usually severe and may stop the nails from growing. More often than not, the ridges are usually caused by an underlying medical condition. For instance, acute kidney disease may trigger horizontal ridges. This is especially the case if the lines develop on all your nails.

Why do I have ridges on my nails?

Before getting into the specific causes of ridged nails, you must understand that fingernails are made up of living cells in the fingers. This is why most of the causes are related to the skin. Below are some of the common causes of ridges in fingernails:

Skin conditions

Certain skin conditions like eczema can cause fingernail ridges. Eczema causes skin dryness, which is one of the primary elements that lead to ridged fingernails. More often than not, if a medical condition causes the ridges, they will be accompanied by other symptoms, like discolouration and brittleness of the nails. For instance, if anaemia is the cause, the nails may also get distorted and form a concave or spoon shape.


The human body goes through several changes due to the ageing process. Fingernails are not an exception to these changes. Vertical ridges are mainly a result of the natural ageing process. While you cannot turn back the clock of ageing, you can combat the ridges by staying hydrated, exercising regularly to restore proper circulation in your body, and treating other age-related issues.

Nutrient deficiencies

Fingernails are made from keratin, a protein found in hair and skin. Therefore, deficiency in keratin and other proteins and nutrients can cause deformation of the fingernails. Deficiency in other nutrients like calcium, zinc, or Vitamin A can also cause fingernail ridges. Iron deficiency can also trigger vertical ridges.

Chemotherapy and trauma

Chemotherapy is also a common cause of ridges. Chemo strips the body of its protein, which causes hair loss and affects your nails. Trauma to the nails may also cause ridging. The trauma may also cause red or brown spots underneath the nails. However, if you have not gone through any trauma and notice ridges or red or brown spots under your nails, you need to worry. This could be a symptom of a severe condition like endocarditis or melanoma.


General dehydration can also cause ridges to develop on your nails. Lack of moisture in the nails and their surrounding skin can also cause ridging in the fingernails.

Take Note

Understand that the causes of fingernail ridges may differ depending on the type. Therefore, below are the causes of ridges, depending on the type.

Causes of horizontal ridges

• These ridges develop due to various underlying medical conditions, like kidney disease, diabetes, or thyroid conditions. Diseases like mumps and bacterial infections can also present in horizontal nail ridges.
• They may also occur due to injury like accidentally slamming your hand in a car door.

Normally, the deeper the ridges appear, the more severe the cause. Therefore, if you experience deep horizontal nail ridges, it is a sign that you need medical attention.

Causes of vertical ridges

• One of the primary causes of vertical ridges in the nails is age. Older people get these ridges because of their low cellular turnover.
• Vitamin deficiencies can also cause deep and pronounced vertical ridges
• Dehydration can also cause these ridges

Diagnosing the causes of fingernail ridges

When determining the right treatment cause for nail ridges, the first step is diagnosing the cause. A health professional usually does this. When a professional is trying to diagnose the cause of ridges on fingernails, they ask questions like, “have you recently experienced trauma to your nails?” A health practitioner may also run medical tests to check for any underlying medical conditions and nutrient deficiencies in your body. For instance, your doctor may order urine and blood tests if they suspect the cause to be kidney disease, nutritional deficiencies, and deficiencies. Doctors can also run tests on skin samples to develop treatment plans for any skin conditions resulting from nail ridging.

In cases where the doctor cannot determine a clear cause for the ridges, the doctor may take some fingernail clippings and have them analyzed. The process will help determine if the condition results from an infection.

How to get rid of fingernail ridges

Below are some tips you can use to get rid of ridges on your fingernails;

Taking multivitamins

As explained earlier, one of the primary causes of ridges on fingernails is vitamin or nutrient deficiencies. This is why taking multivitamins can help the situation. The market features supplements for various nutrients, which could also help relieve the condition. For instance, you could take collagen supplements, biotin, or magnesium pills. Before recommending multivitamins, doctors will run tests to determine the exact nutrient your body lacks.

Boosting your mineral intake

Boosting your mineral intake by eating a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables can also help resolve the condition.

Drinking plenty of water

Dehydration is also a top cause of ridges on fingernails. Therefore, taking a lot of water or staying hydrated can prevent the ridges from developing.


Lack of moisture in the skin and nail cuticles can also cause nail ridges. Thus, using moisturizer on your nails and skin can help. After washing them, you can apply lotion to your hands or purchase cuticle oil. Cuticle oil is a popular nail strengthening product you can apply on the skin around your fingernails once or twice per day. It helps replenish the natural body oils in the nails. It also helps the growing out process.

Visit a medical professional

The tips above are easy to do at home. However, if you do not see results, it is a clear sign that you need medical attention. However, you may want to give it some time to see the changes. For instance, applying cuticle oil for a day may not show results in two days. It may take up to a week or two. Regardless, if you do not see any form of improvement, you can visit a physician for a professional diagnosis. The doctor will help you develop a custom treatment plan depending on your diagnosis.

Since fingernail ridges are primarily a sign of underlying health problems, most treatments are focused on the underlying health issues. For instance, since horizontal ridges are mostly a result of diabetes, their treatment may be centred around controlling your blood sugar levels. Treating the underlying conditions may cause the ridges to reduce. However, before the conditions are controlled, you can always use a bugger to smoothen the ridges. This may give you some peace of mind as you await a permanent solution. However, it would help to seek counsel from a doctor before doing this.

On the other hand, if your fingernail ridges result from old age, the treatments above may not help. The best you could do is smoothen them with a buffer or learn how to live with them. However, you can also try out self-care steps like watching what you ingest or eating a balanced diet. You can also take supplements for your nail health, take a lot of water, and boost your vitamins.

The steps above will do more than treat or eliminate the ridges. They can also help repair your nails, strengthen them, and improve their overall health and appearance.

However, if you experience other symptoms like discolouration and texture changes in addition to the ridges, you may not want to ignore them. You may need to visit a medical practitioner to rule out any underlying conditions if this happens.

Final Word

Ridges are quite common among older people. They are normally a sign of ageing. However, they may also affect younger people. When younger people, including kids, teenagers, youths, and adults, develop ridges in fingernails, it is usually a sign of a health problem. You must also understand that older people develop vertical ridges. Ridges may be discomforting as they affect the natural appearance of your nails. However, the good thing is that you can get treatment and get rid of them.

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