While you probably are not looking at your toenails most of the time, checking on them and paying attention to the condition of your toenails may give you important clues into the condition of your health.
Typically, healthy toenails are smooth and flat, without any discoloration, marks, ridges or spots. When toenails begin to develop ridges, the direction, frequency and color of the ridges can help to identify underlying health conditions. Most of the time, toenail ridges are harmless and not a cause for concern.
Toenail Ridges: What To Look For
Here are some of the things to look for when it comes to toenail ridges and identifying underlying health conditions.
Toenail ridges could be caused by changes associated with age. The inability of our bodies to maintain moisture as we age could be one reason that ridges would appear in toenails. This is not a cause for any type of health concern.
There are two types of ridges that your toenail could have. The ridges may be either vertical or horizontal. More information on each can be found below. Vertical ridges are also known as longitudinal striations or bands, while horizontal ridges may also be known as Beau’s lines. Beau’s lines indicate an interruption in the growth of the nail due to severe medical or health conditions.
Vertical Toenail Ridges
Typically toenail ridges are harmless, so don’t worry. If you do see these and they are evenly spaced, they could indicate the normal aging process and lack of moisture or dryness in our skin as we age.
In some cases, vertical toenail ridges can also be an important indication of the state of your health, including: vitamin deficiencies, lack of minerals, or poor nutrition. They may also be caused by eczema, low protein, or mineral deficiencies such as calcium, zinc or vitamin A, iron deficiency or anemia.
In addition to vertical toenail ridges being a symptom of poor nutrition, they may also indicate infection. Vertical toenail ridges can also be attributed to onychorrhexis (brittle nails) or trachyonychia (also known as 20-nail dystrophy where the nails have a sandpaper like quality to them).
A single vertical ridge could be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition and needs to be evaluated by a physician as soon as possible.
Horizontal Toenail Ridges
Horizontal toenail ridges are strong indicators of underlying health conditions. When a certain health condition is severe, it may disrupt the growth of the nail. Health conditions or things that affect health that can do this would be:
- high fever
- zinc deficiency
- peripheral vascular disease
- severe infections (measles, mumps, pneumonia)
- heart attack
- certain medications
- arsenic poisoning (rare)
If horizontal ridges develop on all toenails and fingernails as well, it can indicate: mumps, thyroid disease, diabetes, or syphilis.
Our nails can also be affected by kidney, GI, lung and liver disease. Dark spots on nails without trauma could indicate endocarditis or melanoma.
A podiatrist can help identify what is normal and what is not when it comes to your toenails. Toenail ridges are a good indicator of your health and/or other health conditions your body could be developing.
If your toenail ridges are a cause for concern, beginning with an evaluation by a foot and ankle expert, such as a podiatrist will help to identify what type of toenail ridges you are experiencing and may need further medical treatment for.
Contact us for a consultation today.