Ridges in your fingernails or toenails can be a sign of a current or past illness. Ridges may also happen if you have a nutrient deficiency. Your provider can help you determine why you have ridges in your nails. Usually, your nails will become smoother if you treat the underlying cause.
Ridges in your nails are visible lines or dents in your fingernails or toenails. The ridges may run vertically (up and down) or horizontally (across) your nail. Ridges in your nails can be a sign of a health condition or a previous injury to your nail. In some cases, they’re harmless.
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Certain health conditions and nutrient deficiencies can cause ridges, dents or lines in your nails. Common causes of vertical nail ridges, also called longitudinal ridges, include:
Horizontal ridges or dents in your nails are usually due to a condition called Beau’s lines. These dents may happen when something interrupts your nail growth. Possible causes include:
Certain nutritional deficiencies can cause changes to your nails. Zinc deficiency can cause Beau’s lines and white spots on your nails. Iron deficiency can cause vertical nail ridges and koilonychia (spoon nails). Spoon nails have a depression in the middle, like the center of your nail was scooped out. You may be able to hold a drop of water on your nail.
First, see a healthcare provider to find out the underlying cause. Treating the cause can usually improve the look of your nails and allow healthy nails to grow in.
For instance, medication for thyroid disease often improves or resolves related nail problems. Taking iron or zinc supplements — with your provider’s guidance — may help if you have a deficiency. However, it takes several months for your nails to grow out and it takes time to see a change in your nails.
If you have Beau’s lines from a previous illness, the lines should gradually grow out. But if you keep getting new Beau’s lines, tell your provider. Repeated Beau’s lines could be a sign that you have a condition that keeps interrupting your nail growth.
If your provider has ruled out any health conditions, you can treat nail ridges with home care. The ridges may not go away completely, but you can improve the appearance of your nails if you:
There’s no guaranteed way to prevent nail ridges. But seeing your provider as recommended can help. Tell your provider about any health changes, including changes to your nails. If you develop nail ridges, your provider can work with you to treat the underlying cause.
Always tell your provider if you notice new ridges or lines in your nails. You may not need treatment, but you won’t know until you find out what’s causing the ridges. Other nail changes to mention to a healthcare provider include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your nails provide important information about your health. If you have nail ridges, don’t ignore them. Talk to your provider so you can find out the cause and how to treat it, if necessary. With time and treatment, you may see new, smoother nails grow in. And if your nail ridges aren’t due to a health condition or deficiency, home nail care may help.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/16/2022.
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