Unaesthetic nail lines: why do they occur? Can they be prevented?

Unaesthetic nail lines: why do they occur? Can they be prevented?
Photo source: Getty images

Nail ridges can be related to a disease or lack of nutrition. They occur on both fingernails and toenails. Their appearance is most commonly observed with increasing age.

Nail striations can be a sign of an ongoing or past illness. Sometimes they indicate a nutritional disorder or a nail injury.

Nail striations are usually harmless.

Nail grooves are visible lines or indentations in the nail on the hand or foot.

They can lead in two directions:

  • Horizontal or transverse grooves (from the edge of the nail to the other edge).
  • Vertical or longitudinal grooves (from the top to the bottom and vice versa)
Vertical grooves on nails - finger, nail and grooves
Vertical grooves on the nails. Source: Getty Images

Vertical grooves

They are quite normal and no special significance is attached to their formation.

They sometimes occur in eczematous diseases or in very dry skin.

They are more common than horizontal lines.

In some thyroid diseases (reduced function) longitudinal lines appear on the nails. Sometimes the nails are also brittle and the whole finger may be swollen.

Nails thin with age, lose their typical shape, split and break more easily.

Vertical grooves can also occur in rheumatoid arthritis.

Horizontal grooves

These grooves or indentations usually occur as so-called Beau's lines.

They can occur in acute kidney disease.

Horizontal grooves on the nails most commonly occur after chemotherapy.

Horizontal lines can lead to the nails stopping growing.

These grooves can also occur post-traumatically or with the use of acrylic nails.

They also occur in peripheral vascular disease or as a symptom in COVID-19 or measles.

Beau's lines can occur in a number of other diseases such as mumps, diabetes mellitus, parathyroid disease, and syphilis.

Horizontal grooves on nails - hand, fingers, nails
Horizontal nail grooves. Source: Getty Images

Nail striations in general

They can be caused by nutritional deficiencies. Zinc deficiency can lead to Beau's lines and white spots on the nails.

Iron deficiency can lead to vertical grooves and koilonychia (bowl-shaped nails). In bowl-shaped nails, the centre of the nail is depressed and a drop of water can rest in it.

Injury to the nail or the whole finger can lead to the formation of grooves on the nail.

Diseases associated with malnutrition (malabsorption), such as Crohn's disease, can also cause nail furrows.

In psoriasis or skin eczema, accompanying nail striations may also occur.

Interesting facts

Brown or red spots on the nails may appear after an injury to the nail or finger. However, serious diseases such as endocarditis or malignant melanoma may also be involved.

Taking vitamins A, C, D and biotin is a good way to strengthen the nails and their surrounding area.

Nails are made up of a protein called keratin, which is also found in skin and hair.

Ageing is one of the main reasons why nails form lines.

A patient may see a dermatologist when the nails seem unsightly, but especially when pain is present (for example, after trauma).

In addition to vertical grooves, anemia is also manifested by notches.

Nail line, hand, fingers, nails
Streaks on the nails indicate a possible undiagnosed disease. Source: Getty Images

Prevention and treatment

Finding the correct cause is the basis of proper treatment. The goal of treatment is not only the physiological (natural) appearance of the nail, but also its proper growth.

Proper treatment of thyroid disease leads to the alleviation of nail problems.

When a diabetic disease is detected, diabetes is treated first, which leads to an improvement in the condition of the nails.

Supplementation of zinc or iron leads to the restoration of the nail that is damaged due to nutrient deficiency. This supplementation is only noticeable after a few months (because it takes so long for the nail to grow back completely).

Home treatment of nail furrows involves the use of a moisturizing nail cream. There will be a reduction in dryness of the surrounding skin or relief from eczema.

It is recommended to apply moisturizer to the hands and feet and use cotton gloves and socks at night.

Dietary supplements containing biotin are suitable for improving nail growth.

It is forbidden to bite your nails and gloves should always be worn when doing household chores.

The prevention of nail striations is related to a diet with sufficient iron and zinc, as well as proper hydration of the fingers and toes.

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The aim of the portal and content is not to replace professional examination. The content is for informational and non-binding purposes only, not advisory. In case of health problems, we recommend seeking professional help, visiting or contacting a doctor or pharmacist.