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Most people get concerned about fingernail ridges because they are ugly. Few people realize that fingernails can be an excellent barometer of overall health - they can help your healthcare professional understand more about your health condition
Ridges of the fingernails, along with discolorations and contour changes, are important indications of undiagnosed medical problems. When you see these ripples, it is not always a cause for concern, however. Sometimes ridges are from previous injuries or are just there. Here are some of the different types of ridges that can occur.



Vertical Nail Ridges

When the ridges run vertically or length-wise, it is a common normal variant and usually not a sign of serious disease. The ridges that extend from the base of your fingernail to the tip in an orderly fashion are oftentimes just a sign of an aging nail. Vertical nail ridges do not indicate poor health, generally, so don’t panic if you have these.

Horizontal Nail Ridges

If you have ridges that go from one side and cross over to the other side of the nail, then you have horizontal ridges of your nails. There are many different types of these and they could signal an underlying medical condition. If you have recently noticed the development of horizontal nail ridges, consult with your healthcare professional to see what is advisable.

Beau’s Lines

These are the deeply grooved ridges of the nails. Sometimes they give the nail a darkened appearance. More often than not, these distinctive ridges are caused from previous injury to the nailbed, malnutrition, certain medications, or metabolic conditions like diabetes. Protein synthesis is interrupted and this leads to a ridge. When the nail growth is temporarily stopped, a ridge develops and this is known as a Beau’s line.




Muehrcke’s Lines

These lines and ridges occur in pairs and run in a transverse fashion. These lines are often found in patients who have kidney problems, low albumin levels, malnutrition, and liver disease. People undergoing chemotherapy often have this type of horizontal nail ridges. Muehrcke’s lines develop because of pigment interruption. The growth of the nail is normal and these types of ridges do not move with the growth of the nail.

Mee’s Lines

These horizontal ridges are actually white bands that run across the nail. They are seen in arsenic or thallium poisoning, a rare systemic accident. As the nail grows, the lines displace upwards. The band width varies from person to person. Mee’s lines indicate poor health and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.

Terry’s Lines

These are narrow, white horizontal ridges that occur near the end or tip of your fingernail. Terry’s lines are seen in people who are suffering with liver cirrhosis, HIV/AIDS, renal failure, and diabetes. If you have these ripples near the fingertips, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Horizontal Half-Moons

If you have ever noticed the half-moon at the base of the nail bed, then you are aware of the ‘lunula’. Most people can see the lunula on their thumb and index fingers, but few can see it on their third, fourth, and fifth fingers. If the lunula is really red in color, it could indicate liver disease, lung disease, or hear failure. If the half-moon is blue in color, it could indicate Wilson’s disease or silver poisoning. A normal variant is for the half-moon to be visible on all five fingers and this does not indicate disease.

  • Gromisch, M. (2010). Fingernail ridging: What does it mean? Retrieved from: http://maryann-gromisch.suite101.com/fingernail-ridging-what-does-it-indicate-a225130
  • Mailiakal, L. (2011). Ridges in fingernails. Retrieved from: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/ridges-in-fingernails.html
  • Photo courtesy of theeponymousone on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/theeponymousone/3095049412/

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