What is Nail Ridges?
Nail ridges, also known as longitudinal nail striations or longitudinal ridges, refer to the presence of raised lines or bumps on the surface of the fingernails or toenails. These ridges can run vertically from the base of the nail to the tip, resulting in vertical ridges on nails. Additionally, there are cases where hills appear horizontally across the nails, known as horizontal ridges in nails. These ridges may vary in length, depth, and prominence, and can affect both fingernails and toenails, leading to ridges in fingernails and toenails.
While some nail ridges are entirely normal and harmless, others may indicate underlying health conditions or nutritional deficiencies. Vertical ridges on nails, in particular, are often considered a normal part of ageing and pose no significant health concerns. However, in some cases, these ridges can be associated with certain conditions such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, or peripheral vascular disease.
Causes of Nail Ridges
While some ridges are considered normal and harmless, others may be indicative of underlying health conditions or nutritional deficiencies. The most common causes of nail ridges include:
- Eczema: Eczema, a chronic inflammatory skin condition, can affect the nails and contribute to the development of nail ridges. The inflammation associated with eczema can disrupt the normal growth of the nail matrix, leading to the formation of ridges on the nails.
- Skin diseases: Certain skin diseases can also be responsible for nail ridges. Conditions such as psoriasis, lichen planus, and alopecia areata may cause changes in the nail matrix, resulting in the appearance of ridges on the nails. These skin diseases can affect the health and growth of the nails, leading to various nail abnormalities, including ridges.
- Malnutrition: Inadequate nutrient intake, particularly deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, and proteins, can impact nail health and contribute to the development of nail ridges. Malnutrition deprives the nails of essential nutrients necessary for their proper growth and strength, leading to ridges.
- Types of fungal nail infections: Specific types of fungal nail infections, such as onychomycosis, can cause nail ridges. Fungal infections can invade the nails, causing them to become thickened, discoloured, and develop ridges. These infections can disrupt the normal structure and growth of the nails, causing the formation of ridges.
- Trauma or Injury: Physical trauma or injury to the nails can disrupt their normal growth and result in the formation of ridges. Accidental impacts, repetitive pressure, or even harsh nail treatments can damage the nail matrix, causing irregularities in nail texture and the appearance of ridges.
Types of Nail Ridges
- Horizontal ridges in nails: Horizontal ridges, also known as Beau’s lines, are characterised by indented lines or ridges that run horizontally across the nails. These ridges are typically associated with temporary disruptions in nail growth and may be caused by various factors, including severe illness, malnutrition, physical trauma, certain medications, or systemic diseases. Beau’s lines can appear as a result of the nail matrix being temporarily interrupted or damaged, leading to the formation of horizontal ridges that become visible as the nails grow.
- Vertical ridges in nails: Vertical ridges are raised lines or ridges that run vertically from the base of the nail to the tip. These ridges are often considered a normal part of ageing and are more common as people get older. Vertical ridges can also be influenced by genetic factors. In most cases, vertical ridges on nails are harmless and do not require treatment. However, in some instances, these ridges can be associated with certain conditions, such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, or peripheral vascular disease. It is important to note that vertical ridges are generally less concerning than horizontal ridges and are often considered a natural variation in nail appearance.
Diagnosis & Treatment for Nail Ridges
Diagnosing the underlying cause of nail ridges often involves a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional. During the diagnostic process, the following approaches may be employed:
- Medical History: The healthcare provider will review your medical history, including any existing health conditions, medications, recent illnesses, or nutritional deficiencies that could contribute to nail abnormalities.
- Physical Examination: A thorough examination of the nails will be conducted to assess the appearance, texture, and characteristics of the ridges. The healthcare professional may also examine other parts of the body for associated symptoms or signs that could aid in the diagnosis.
- Laboratory Tests: In certain cases, the healthcare provider may request laboratory tests to evaluate for specific underlying causes. Blood tests, nail clippings for fungal culture, or other relevant investigations may be recommended to identify potential infections, nutritional deficiencies, or systemic conditions.
Once the underlying cause of nail ridges is determined, appropriate treatment measures can be implemented. The treatment options will vary depending on the specific cause and may include:
- Addressing Underlying Conditions: Treating the underlying health condition or nutritional deficiency that is contributing to the nail ridges is often a primary approach. This may involve managing skin diseases, addressing nutritional imbalances, or treating fungal nail infections through antifungal medications.
- Supplements: In cases where nutritional deficiencies are identified, supplements containing essential vitamins, minerals, or proteins may be recommended to support nail health and growth.
- Moisturization: Applying moisturisers or nail creams containing emollients can help improve the overall condition and hydration of the nails, potentially reducing the prominence of ridges.
- Nail Care Practices: Practising good nail hygiene and care can help improve the appearance and health of the nails. This may involve regularly trimming and filing the nails, keeping them clean and dry, and avoiding harsh nail treatments or trauma.
If you are concerned about the appearance of nail ridges or experience accompanying symptoms, it is important to seek professional medical advice. A dermatologist is a specialist who can evaluate your nails, provide a proper diagnosis, and recommend the most appropriate treatment options tailored to your specific needs.
To find a local dermatologist near you who can help address your concerns about nail ridges and provide expert guidance, you can visit our Find Local Dermatologist webpage. Simply enter your location to access a directory of dermatologists in your area.
Taking proactive steps to understand the underlying causes of nail ridges and seeking professional assistance will help ensure the best care for your nail health. Remember, a qualified dermatologist can provide personalised recommendations and support to help you maintain healthy and beautiful nails.
1) When should I worry about nail ridges?
While many nail ridges are harmless, there are certain instances when you should consider seeking medical advice. You should be concerned about nail ridges if they are accompanied by other concerning symptoms like changes in nail colour, texture, thickness, pain, or discomfort.
2) Do ridges in nails mean a vitamin deficiency?
Ridges in nails can be associated with various factors, including vitamin deficiencies. However, it is important to note that not all nail ridges are directly linked to vitamin deficiencies. Other causes, such as ageing, trauma, skin diseases, or systemic conditions, can also contribute to the appearance of ridges.
3) What vitamin causes ridges in nails?
A deficiency in certain vitamins can contribute to the development of nail ridges. One of the key vitamins associated with nail health is biotin, also known as vitamin B7. Biotin deficiency may lead to nail abnormalities, including ridges. However, it is important to remember that ridges can have multiple causes, and proper diagnosis by a healthcare professional is necessary to determine the specific underlying cause.
4) Does lack of calcium cause ridges in nails?
There is limited evidence to suggest that a lack of calcium alone directly causes ridges in nails. However, calcium is important for overall nail health, and deficiencies in this mineral can contribute to weak and brittle nails. It is always recommended to maintain a balanced diet that includes adequate amounts of calcium along with other essential nutrients for optimal nail health.
5) Do thyroid problems cause nail ridges?
Thyroid problems, such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, can sometimes be associated with nail abnormalities, including ridges. However, nail changes alone are not definitive indicators of thyroid problems. Other symptoms and diagnostic tests are typically necessary for an accurate diagnosis.