Ridged Fingernails

Do Ridged Fingernails Indicate A Health Problem?

Most people do not have ridged fingernails, or more appropriately, ridges on a specific fingernail, so ridged fingernails could be considered an abnormality. While that is true in most cases, older people are sometimes apt to get ridges on one or more of their fingernails. This is usually not considered an abnormal situation, and is considered to be based partly on the aging process and partly on heredity. These are theories, as no one knows for certain why older people may develop fingernail ridges.

Show Your Hands - Perhaps you've noticed that in the course of an annual medical examination or even a mini examination, the doctor will look carefully at your hands. He or she isn't admiring your hands, but probably taking a look at your fingernails. The fingernails often serve as an indicator of a person's general health and well being. That doesn't mean that if you're fingernails are normal, you're perfectly healthy, but if they're abnormal, it could be a sign of some health problem or issue.

Vertical Ridges, Generally Harmless - While there are always exceptions, vertical ridges are generally considered to be natural, or at least not indicative of any particular problem. Horizontal ridges on the other hand, often signify something deeper, perhaps a systemic disease is the root cause. An injury to the nail or finger is often the cause of horizontal ridges. While injury is not considered a cause of vertical ridges, the author suffered a broken finger in a softball game, with the result being a permanent case of vertical ridges on the finger in question. The finger healed and the ridges remained, but are harmless.

Horizontal Ridges, Symptomatic Of Other Problems - The problem with horizontal ridges appears to have some basis in the possibility of uneven growth of the nail due to a medical or nutritional problem of one kind or another. When horizontally ridged fingernails are accompanied by changes in nail color, the underlying condition could be something rather severe and a doctor should be consulted. Horizontally ridged fingernails have been known at times to be symptomatic of liver or kidney disorders, and even heart disease. High blood pressure can cause ridges in fingernails, a condition which sometimes occurs during pregnancy.

Nutrition can Be A Factor - Sometimes the problem is limited to the nail itself, which in most cases is due to a lack of moisture. Applying moisturizing agents to the nails and fingers can often cause the ridges to disappear, as can drinking more water, as dehydration can be another cause. Even changing eating habits, to a better or more nutritious diet, can sometimes reverse the ridging process, as it is a known fact that a deficiency in some nutrients can cause nail problems, including ridged fingernails. A slightly more serious situation may be encountered when a person's diet is a healthy  one, but the body for one reason or another is not doing a good job of absorbing the nutrients it is being provided. This is something of course a doctor should be made aware of, and is just another instance of ridged fingernails being indicative that something in the body may not be working right.

In summary, a vertically ridged fingernail is most likely not a cause for concern, and even a single horizontally ridged fingernail would be of no concern if the nail or finger has previously been injured. Horizontally ridged fingernails which appear for no apparent reason however, should be looked into, especially if more than one fingernail is involved, and definitely if there are other changes in the nails, including nail color. Ridged fingernails are rarely if ever painful, or even physically sensitive, although in extreme case they may be unattractive to look at. If diet and moisturizers don't help, it's best to seek medical advice, as a doctor may be able to determine the root cause of the problem. Be aware however, that especially for vertically ridged fingernails, the cause either is usually not known or thought to be genetic.