Written by Anza Goodbar (last updated January 5, 2022)
When I will a little girl, my grandmother and I used to get manicures together. I don't ever remember a time when she didn't keep her nails covered with polish. She had very pronounced vertical fingernail ridges. I was fascinated with the ridges as my fingernails were smooth. My grandmother was a nurse and she said when people get older, sometimes they develop ridges in their fingernails and it was nothing to worry about.
As I grew older, I had a friend who had horizontal ridges in her nails. I later discovered that she had diabetes and it affected the way her fingernails grew. This type of ridge is called a Beau's ridge and can be in indicator of something more serious going on with our health.
Just as my grandmother indicated, vertical ridges are fairly common; my nails have them now too. I asked my doctor about them just to be sure when I had my last check up as they are becoming more prominent. He assured me it was a normal part of aging. A light buffing with an Emory board can smooth them out and give a nicer look on a polished nail.
A horizontal fingernail ridge, on the other hand, could be an indication that another medical issue underlies the ridges. Beau's ridges run across the width of the nail and can be slightly discolored. There are several things that would be responsible for these ridges forming: injury to the nail bed, poor nutrition, medications or a metabolic disorder like diabetes. These ridges are formed due to an interruption in nail growth due to an underlying medical issue. If these types of ridges have from on your fingernails, seek medical care immediately.
Sometimes these ridges form from a change in nutrition or damage to the nail bed. This situation, however, will not have a pattern that covers the entire nail bed. It would be advisable to see a medical professional as a precaution, however, the nail should return to normal growth once the trauma has healed or your diet has returned to normal.
In extremely rare cases, horizontal rides can be a sign of arsenic poisoning. Many other symptoms like difficulty swallowing, eye discomfort and redness, foot or ankle pain and dizziness, just to name a few would have to be present for poisoning to be the culprit. It is advisable when working with chemicals to protect the body by wearing gloves.
As with any health issue, it is important to be in tune with your body. If you see dramatic changes, see a medical professional to rule out any serious medical condition. In most cases, ridges in fingernails are nothing to be concerned about.
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