Ridges. What you need to know.

Horizontal or Vertical ones?

Your nails are a reflection of the health and wellness of your body. You can tell you a lot from looking at fingernails. It is true that abnormalities of the nails can often provide early clues to common medical problems or severe systemic diseases. Take a few moments and examine your unpolished fingernails under a good light. You will gather a new appreciation for how your lifestyle affects your nails and overall health.

One of the most common fingernail complaints is ridges. There are so many speculations on why people get them, from aging to nutritional deficiencies. But what is the real answer? Are they something to worry about? Can you stop them from growing? How they can be hidden? Who can get ridges on their nails? Everybody, in fact, fingernail ridges are very common. They appear more often as you age, but they can appear on people of all ages. They aren’t only confined to your fingernails, as ridges in toenails can be visible, as well.

Nail Ridges

Horizontal ridges:

  • injury
  • infection
  • nutrition

Longitudinal ridges:

  • aging
  • poor absorption of vitamins and minerals
  • thyroid disease
  • kidney failure
  • rheumatoid arthritis


Vertical or Longitudinal Nail Ridges

Vertical nail ridges are the most common type of nail ridges.  They are like a fingerprint for your nail, one that amplifies with age. As we age the nail matrix becomes atrophied in areas resulting in longitudinal ridging of nails: They are like wrinkles in the nails.

As we get older, they can become more pronounced due to everyday abuse; repeated blows, beating and battering of the fingertips and fingernails.  Vertical ridges also become more pronounced when the finger is injured from catching them in drawers and doors.

But these are not the only cause of increased ridges.  Vertical nail ridges also become more pronounced as we age, due to lack of moisture in the nail.  As we age, our skin slows in the production of sebum, which hydrates our nails naturally.  Depending on the individual, this natural process will dry out the nail.  The nails become seemingly harder and the ridges become more pronounced, but they can also become more brittle and prone to breaking. (Applying cuticle oil daily can help with this.)

Sometimes it can be a sign of lack of certain vitamins or poor nutrition, but this is rare. Vertical ridges can also be caused by nail injury and certain diseases, thyroid disease, kidney failure, including rheumatoid arthritis. If there is only a single vertical streak, this could be a sign of a tumour growing at the root of the nail. Another caveat: If the ridges have appeared and grown more pronounced very quickly or over a short period of time, they could be a sign of a very rare condition called lichen planus, which often also causes skin rash.

Horizontal Nail Ridges

Horizontal nail ridges are less common and can be due to a multitude of reasons.

Most often, they are due to infection and injury.  It is important to see a doctor when such an injury or infection occurs, especially in the area of the nail matrix, the area around the moon of your nail and below the cuticle.
This type of injury or infection can cause permanent horizontal nail ridges and waves, although this usually only happens on one or more fingers.  When the ridges are on all the nails, you’ll want to consult a doctor.
These systemic type ridges to watch for are:
1. Nail Pitting, most commonly from Psoriasis
2. Beau’s Lines, are characterized by indentations across the nail bed that are a sign of disrupted growth due to illness .It can be a sign of a zinc deficiency or something more serious, like uncontrolled diabetes and peripheral vascular disease, as well as illnesses associated with a high fever, such as scarlet fever, measles, mumps and pneumonia. 3

While a single instance of a horizontal ridge could just be a sign of a time the body was fighting off illness, recurrent horizontal ridges might point to a chronic disease.

How to treat ridges?

Vertical Ridges: While some people might not like the way they look, it is better not to buff off the ridges. Since the ridge is the thinnest spot on the nail, it can split and buffing only exacerbates that. Instead, try to moisturize the nail throughout the day with nail oil, vitamin E oil or olive oil might help prevent ridges in your nails, paying close attention to the cuticle, the key to the health of the nail.

Horizontal Ridges: If your fingernails change colour or you develop horizontal nail ridges, consult your doctor. These changes could indicate an underlying health condition.

How to hide ridges?

There is special nail polish made for hiding ridges. They are typically white and have the word “ridge” on the bottle. They are used like a base coat and do a great job at producing a smooth nail that looks ridge-free. Many nail salons use ridge filler under your polish to make your nails look completely smooth.

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