Your fingernails could have ridges for many reasons, ranging from stress to kidney and thyroid disease. Ridges in fingernails are usually harmless.

Your fingernails can reveal a lot about the state of your health. One common change is the appearance of vertical or horizontal ridges. Learn more about why ridges in fingernails appear and what they can mean.

Vertical ridges are furrows that run from the tip of your fingernail down to the cuticle. They are sometimes called longitudinal striations or bands.

According to 2015 research, slight vertical ridges in fingernails often develop in older adults, possibly due to a slowing of cell turnover. This is when new skin cells produced below the surface of your skin rise up to take the place of discarding dead cells from the surface.

If you experience other symptoms like texture changes in your nails, it may be caused by a medical condition. In trachyonychia (twenty-nail dystrophy), the ridges may look shiny or brittle.

Iron deficiency anemia can also trigger vertical ridges and changes to your nails that make them concave or spoon-shaped.

Deep horizontal ridges, called Beau’s lines, are often symptoms of a serious condition, according to 2018 research. They may actually stop nail growth until the underlying condition is treated. Acute kidney disease may also be present if Beau’s lines appear.

According to the 2015 research mentioned earlier, when Beau’s lines develop on all 20 nails, it could be a symptom of:

Chemotherapy may also cause Beau’s lines.

Trauma to your nails can cause red or brown spots to form underneath your nails. If you notice dark brown, black, or red color changes under your nails and haven’t experienced nail trauma, it may be a symptom of a more serious condition, like endocarditis or melanoma.

A doctor should examine changes in your nails. If you damaged your nail in an injury, you may wait to see how the nail and your finger heal for a few weeks before deciding whether to see a doctor.

However, you should see a doctor as soon as possible if the injury results in:

  • a clean or ragged cut through your nail
  • a crushed nail
  • a nail that is torn off
  • bleeding under your nail

During your appointment, your doctor will examine your nails and ask about any other symptoms you’re experiencing.

Your doctor may order urine and blood tests if they suspect kidney disease, diabetes, or nutritional deficiencies.

If it seems like the ridges are the result of a skin condition, a dermatologist can start you on a treatment plan.

If the cause of your fingernail ridges is unclear, your dermatologist may take some fingernail clippings to have them analyzed in a lab for signs of infection.

Because fingernail ridges are often signs of other health problems, treatment focuses on the underlying cause of the changes to your nails. For example, if you have developed Beau’s lines because of diabetes, successfully managing your blood sugar may reduce these horizontal fingernail ridges.

Treatment for skin conditions like eczema may include moisturizers for your hands or topical ointments to reduce eczema symptoms. If low levels of minerals or vitamins are to blame, you may be advised to alter your diet or take supplements to boost your levels.

Ask a dermatologist for advice on treating your nails. You’ll want to be careful not to cause further damage.

You can connect to a dermatologist in your area using the Healthline FindCare tool.

Most of the time, ridges in fingernails are a typical sign of aging. However, it’s important to pay attention to fingernail ridges and other nail changes. These might be the first signs of a serious medical problem.

What do ridges in your nails mean?

Ridges in your nails are usually harmless but can mean different things. Vertical ridges are often an indication of aging. Horizontal ridges can point to issues like malnutrition, serious nail injury, or even Beau’s lines.

What causes ridges in nails?

Ridges in nails usually come from aging but can also indicate improper nail care, nail trauma, vitamin deficiency, or even a more pressing medical condition, according to 2022 research.

Do deficiencies cause ridges in nails?

Vitamins that can help with nail health include iron, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin D. According to 2018 research, biotin is also highly recommended to aid in nail health, but more research is still needed to understand the actual benefits.

Can you buff out ridges in nails?

Some dermatologists suggest you can gently buff nails to remove ridges. However, it’s recommended to stick with moisturizing your nails, keeping them trimmed, and checking with a dermatologist for further consideration.

Ridges in the fingernails are usually signs of aging. Slight vertical ridges commonly develop in older adults.

In some cases, ridges may be a sign of health problems like vitamin deficiencies or diabetes. Deep horizontal ridges, called Beau’s lines, may indicate a serious condition.