What Causes Ridges on Fingernails?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

There are a number of potential causes for ridges on fingernails. Vertical ridges which run the length of the nail are actually quite common, especially among older people, although they can be a cause for concern, especially when paired with color changes in the nail. Horizontal ridges are often an indicator of a health problem which requires medical attention. If you have just noticed ridges in your nails, you shouldn't panic, but you may want to make time to see a doctor to discuss the change.

Dry hands can cause fingernail ridges, but regular moisturization can help.
Dry hands can cause fingernail ridges, but regular moisturization can help.

One extremely common cause of ridges on fingernails is malnutrition or malabsorption. Many vitamin deficiencies cause ridges on fingernails, as the body's production of the materials in the nail is interrupted. Eating a healthier diet and supplementing with vitamins can help clear up the ridges; for especially strong, health nails you can eat gelatin, which will also benefit your hair. If improvements to your diet do not resolve the ridges on your fingernails, you may have a disorder which interrupts the absorption of nutrients by your body, and you should see a doctor.

Eating gelatin can strengthen nails and help with ridges.
Eating gelatin can strengthen nails and help with ridges.

Another cause of ridges on fingernails is lack of moisture. If your nails are ridged or cracked, massaging the nails or cuticles with a moisturizing cream or oil can be very beneficial, as can increasing the amount of water you drink. If you live in a hot climate or do a lot of manual labor, your hands can tend to dry out, and in addition to keeping your nails healthier and happier, regular moisturizing will also benefit the skin of your hands.

The parallel lines that run from the base to the tip of a fingernail become more prominent with age.
The parallel lines that run from the base to the tip of a fingernail become more prominent with age.

Changes in the nail can also be caused by disease. Dramatic changes in nail structure can indicate respiratory or circulatory problems, along with autoimmune disease, and in some cases nails change color or develop ridges when the body is exposed to a toxin such as arsenic. Some skin conditions like psoriasis are also linked with changes like ridges on fingernails, and pitting of the nail.

Malnutrition may lead to fingernail ridges and other nail problems.
Malnutrition may lead to fingernail ridges and other nail problems.

Changes in nail health can be early indicators of changes in the general health of your body. For this reason, it is a good idea to pay attention to the state of your nails. While your nails can be ridged and perfectly healthy, deep ridges can be a sign of a problem, and horizontal ridges are especially dangerous. Likewise with dramatic color changes in your nails. If your nails turn blueish, greenish, or yellowish, it is a sign that your body is having difficulty coping with a problem, and you should see a doctor.

Staying hydrated may help prevent the development of ridges on fingernails.
Staying hydrated may help prevent the development of ridges on fingernails.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I have the ridges on my nails but my concern is I now have deep grooves which are causing the sides to stick up. On a couple there is a thickness under the nail.

I do have several health problems but have not mentioned the nails to my doctor. I am really hoping they will go back to being normal.


I think horizontal ridging on fingernails has to do with autoimmune diseases, like hypothyroidism. Possibly other autoimmune stuff too, like lupus.


I'm 47 and I found out last year I have kidney disease. I have awful deep horizontal ridges on both thumbs and my wedding ring finger. My nails are so awful, always breaking. Could it be due to my illness?


Anyone with horizontal ridges on nails, feet or hands has a bad disease and needs to see a doctor. Note: many doctors do not know about these problems. It is called Beaurs disease.


I have also noticed vertical ridges on both my thumb nails recently. I am a thyroid patient. Can this be a cause or is it something else?


I just noticed horizontal ridges on my thumbnails. There are two on each thumb. I have had a positive ANA for the past year which is an indicator of an autoimmune disease.

I’m 24 so when I saw these weird speed bump looking lines it kind of made me nervous that my body could be under an attack. I also just got over having scabies for four weeks. It took three cycles of permetherin cream to kill it, and I have been scabies free for four weeks now. I wonder if all the toxins from the pesticide I applied all over my skin caused this strange event? Can anyone tell me what this even means? I have always had such beautiful nails, and now they look bumpy!


I have a lump on the knuckle of my right hand. It's gotten bigger over the years doctors don't know what it is! Now i have horizontal ridges on this nail. I'm 60 with underactive thyroid. Is this linked to ridges?


I've read that horizontal ridges on nails, especially thumbnails, can be caused by 'habit tic' deformity.

If you don't have any major health conditions to speak of, you might try observing to see if you unconsciously pick or frequently push back your cuticles.


i am 22 and i have vertical cracks on my nails. Please tell me how can i repair them.


I have two deep horizontal ridges in my thumbs, and tiny ones at the same place in all fingernails. This indicates some trauma that took place approximately five or six weeks ago. Yet I am fit and well eat healthily, and show no signs of illness, fatigue or anything else!


What a good subject and how true it is that the nails and tongue, I might add, reveal the state of everyone's health. How nice it is to know what is going on within the body and that suffering does not always have to take its usual course.

If you cannot find a good physician because they failed to study well while in college, then I would suggest taking up learning homeopathic and other natural methods of treating myself.

I took some good correspondence courses which helped to introduce me into the world of alternative healing and I have not regretted it since.


I'm not yet 14 and I've noticed that I have horizontal ridges on most of my fingernails and some of my toenails. At first I disregarded them because I thought it was genetic and my grandmother has them but they have recently gotten worse. Do I need to see my doctor?


Both hands and all my fingers have horizontal ridges on the nails. I am concerned with them since I do have an autoimmune disease. The doctors say it is nothing but I feel it is since lately I have been tired and have no energy. Also, I cannot sleep. I am up all night for days sometimes. No, I do not drink caffeine at all.

The doctors just blow you off and tell me it is old age. Ha. I have had this since a teenager. What is one to do? What doctor do you go to?


Your fingernail is the output of your kidney and your liver. If you have a line running vertically in your nail, something is wrong with your liver. When you get up in age your nail sometimes have ridges on them.

In other cases, your body trying to rid of the toxins in your liver and kidney. In a nutshell, your body needed to be purged out. You can sometimes use a pill called the Dewitt pill. Taken as prescribed, it makes you urine blue. Tell your doctor you need to purge your body completely.


I went to my doctor last year about the horizontal ridges on both of my thumbs. They were and still are very deep and sensitive. This doctor's appointment lead to the discovery of an illness: Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. That's why I had horizontal ridges on my thumbs.


One possible cause is malabsorption of nutrients. If you think this is a problem for you, Isagenix is a nutritional cleansing system that has one of the most bioavailable nutrients in the industry.


I had horizontal ridges on all of my fingernails for many years and now have been diagnosed with celiac disease.


If you have vertical ridges on your nails and your doctor blows you off, change doctors. I have had them for 10 years, always asked my dr. and he blow me off too. I also told him about my legs hurting after short walks. PAD was the untreated problem, the quack missed. I am now disabled and hate these quack dr.


I recently had gel nails applied, and after they were removed I noticed vertical ridges, some of which have cracked. Obviously the application of gel nails has caused some reaction, but I would like to know what exactly has happened, either chemically or otherwise.


I have had beautiful nails for 40 years. I lost a nail two years ago following a manicure. Now I have horizontal ridges in all of my nails. Help!


i have horizontal lumpy ridges on all of my nails. they feel tight and sensitive, some of them have white patches in the middle. could you give me some advice please. thanks. zoe


i'm 16 and i noticed i have vertical ridges on all of my nails.


I have a very noticeable, horizontal ridge on my left thumb. would that indicate some type of health factor?


I have had ridges on all my fingernails for some yesrs now! What has caused this? Anon31395


I have horizontal ridges on each of my thumbs. I was thinking it could also be an indicator of minor illnesses as well. I was just diagnosed with mono and have had it for about 4 weeks. I noticed the ridges on my fingernails at about the same time.


I am female and have had 1 thumb with horizontal ridges for 20 years now and no-one has ever given me anything that has helped, as in what it is or what it is caused by.


I noticed that I have horizontal ridges on all of my fingernails as well as some of my toenails. What could be the cause? I also have been very fatigued at times and have a spotted tongue.


I also have one nail that has ridges. Only my one thumb does; they are horizontal. Had a real stressful year one year at work about 10 years ago and my thumb nail has been that way ever since. Can stress be a cause?


Vertical ridges can in addition to aging indicate kidney failure.


What if only one nail has ridges? Only my one thumb does; they are horizontal.


I'm 30 and started to notice some vertical ridges on some of my finger nails. I heard that it could be hereditary, and sure enough both of my parents have em. But then again it might just be a part of getting older!

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