Ridges in Fingernails

The variation of fingernails is enough to fill several large medical textbooks. The causes of abnormal nail appearance, including ridges, can be attributed to a variety of causes. You can include a healthy diet and better care for fingernails to relieve and prevent the condition.

Vertical ridges running in the same direction as the long axis of the finger are the most common type of ridges. Causes include trauma, aging and underlying medical conditions. While the development of ridges can be a normal part of development, many notice an increase in ridges with advancing years of age.

Transverse or longitudinal lines are less common and are often a consequence of trauma to the nail plate or underlying nail bed. Aging and certain medical conditions may on occasion result in transverse nail ridges.


Causes of Ridges in Fingernails

Ridges in fingernails are quite common and should not cause alarm. Vertical and horizontal varieties are possible and often occur due to trauma and again. Seeing your doctor for discussion and evaluation can put your mind to rest. One common cause of nail ridges is malnutrition and should not be overlooked.

1. Malnutrition or malabsorption

Malnutrition is lack of proper intake of nutrition and results in deficiencies of vitamins and minerals. Malabsorption implies that the nutrients are not being absorbed properly into the body. Either or both may be present and contribute to the abnormal appearance of fingernails.

B vitamins are of particular importance for a vast array of body functions including cell growth. Vitamin B-12 helps to strengthen and improve nail growth. Iron deficiency is also relatively common and can result in white spots in the nails as well as ridges. This condition is known as koilonycia. Vitamin C, zinc and calcium also play a role in nail development.

Proper absorption and adequate intake are required of both vitamins and minerals. If your nails appear discolored and horizontal ridges persist despite proper dietary intake, be sure to see your doctor. Yellow or greenish appearing nails require further medical investigation to determine the underlying cause.

2. Lack of moisture

Lack of moisture dries out the nails, cuticles and hands. If you wash your hands excessively, perform manual labor or live in a hot climate your hands are more prone to dryness. This results in cracked brittle nails and split cuticles. Apply a non-scented moisturizing lotion frequently during the day and massage the cuticles. Moisturizing oil massaged into the cuticles can help restore their healthy appearance.

3. Diseases and toxins

A variety of medical conditions can result in abnormal nails. Heart and lung disease are the most worrisome conditions that affect fingernail appearance. Toxins such as arsenic can also cause abnormal lines to appear. Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that affects fingernails and joints.

4. Old age

Every body system is affected as we age and the fingernails are no exception. With age, the natural oils produced by our skin decrease and result in prominent nail ridges and dryness of both the nails and cuticle.

Remedies for Ridges in Fingernails

1. A healthy diet


  • Balanced diet. Make sure your diet is rich in fruits and vegetables. Try a variety of sources and colors to get the most benefit and nutrients. Especially make up those vitamins and minerals which are mentioned above to avoid malnutrition and malabsorption.
  • Omega-3 rich foods. Omega-3 fatty acids are potent antioxidants and help combat free radicals. Nuts and fish are excellent sources and can improve your health and also fingernail appearance.
  • Water intake. Most people do not drink enough water on a daily basis. Proper hydration is key for optimizing wellness and body function. Water is essential and helps the body's repair systems work better.
  • Avoiding junk food. Junk foods are loaded with empty calories, deficient in quality nutrients and promote inflammation in the body.

2. Care for your fingernails

  • Fingernails protection. Protect your fingernails whenever possible. Wear gloves when performing manual labor.
  • Nail hygiene. Keep your nails trimmed and neat to avoid tearing or snagging. Wash your hands and clean under the nails to prevent nail fungus from growing.
  • Moisture. Use a lotion or hand and nail moisturizer on a daily basis. Reapply lotion after washing your hands to keep them from drying out. Excessive washing removes the natural skin oils and results in drying and cracking of both hands and nails.
  • Jojoba oil and vitamin E. Massage your nails and cuticles with either of these lotions before bed and enjoy smoother nails and softer hands.
  • Buffer. Use a gentle buffer and work across the nail slowly with light pressure to soften the appearance of fingernail ridges. Avoid excessive pressure or speed as this generates heat and can damage the nail further. 

How to treat nails with ridges:

3. Prevention measures


  • Moisturize. This is really the key to optimum nail health. Apply a moisturizer at least three times a day to improve the appearance of your fingernails and hands. Cuticle creams provide an extra layer of protective moisturizing and should be used regularly. Wear a pair of light cotton gloves to bed after liberally applying a thick layer of moisturizing cream. The added moisture can restore your fingernails to a more youthful appearance.
  • Provide minerals and vitamins. Take a daily multivitamin to ensure optimum nutritional support. Make sure you are also eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables as well as drinking plenty of water. If neither of these suggestions improves the appearance of your fingernails, visit your doctor or a dermatologist for further evaluation and recommendations.
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