A Comprehensive Overview of Ridges in Toenails


Ridges in Toenails

A nail salon is a popular place for ladies. Unlike shopping where ladies keep comparing themselves to each other and feeling good or bad about it, here there is little of that. The increasing popularity of men who are now using nail polish makes the debate around nails even more interesting. Any problems with the nails, therefore, should become a point of concern. No one wants to put polish and then look terrible. Worse still, how advisable is it to put polish on sick nails? Even if you went for artificial ones, you will still remove them at some point and face the reality. Below we look at one nail problem: ridges in toenails.

Causes of horizontal ridges in toenails

Toenails can develop horizontal or vertical ridges. The former run from side to side. The latter run from top to bottom. We will focus on horizontal ridges first. We will look at the vertical ones a bit later.

How your nails look is an indicator of how healthy you are. If you note any abnormal changes with your nails, it is important to take some action. Horizontal ridges are commonly referred to as Beau’s lines. Beau was a French physician who first described the condition. Let’s delve into the causes of Beau’s lines:

  • The lack of production of nail cells in the body

If the production of nail cells stops even for a day, and then continues, the lines will begin to appear on the affected part of the nail. As the nail continues to grow, the ridges become even more visible. If there is only one ridge, it is an indicator of a cyst at the base of your toenail. This cyst puts pressure on the nail matrix, affecting nail growth.

  •  Vitamin deficiency

Ridges can be caused by inadequate vitamins in the body, for instance, zinc or iron

  • Injuries

Injuries do cause the horizontal lines. Too much friction in your shoes can also cause the lines. Athletes may rub their toenails against the shoes causing the lines to form. Wearing ill-fitting shoes also produces the same effect.

  • Chemicals

Sometimes nail polish may contain harsh chemicals that cause the nail to peel, becoming brittle over time. This ultimately causes horizontal ridges.

  • Systemic Trauma

When your body goes through a certain trauma, for instance, an infection, malaria or even a high fever, your toenails may develop horizontal ridges. Undergoing chemotherapy also has the same effect. Divers and climbers suffer from the condition as a result of exposure to extreme changes in pressure and altitudes. This extreme change disrupts the production of their nail cells.

  • Infections

Bacterial, yeast, and fungal infections do cause horizontal ridges. Other infections, for instance, heart valve infections, and viral warts can also cause the ridges.

  • Diseases

Diseases like liver, heart, skin, kidney and thyroid diseases do cause horizontal ridges in toenails. The first evidence of some types of skin cancers is Beau’s lines in the toenails. Aggressive melanoma (skin cancer) not only causes the ridges, but also dark cuticle colors.

  • Surgery

Surgeries that affect the amount of oxygen in your blood can lead to Beau’s lines.

  • Poisoning

This is a rare occurrence. If you experience arsenic poisoning, you may develop ridges across your toenails. Other symptoms include dizziness, dehydration, stomach pain, and skin discoloration.

  •  Exposure to severe cold

This decreases blood flow to the nail matrix

  •  Eczema

Skin inflammation around the nail, usually associated with eczema, prevents normal cell division in your nail’s matrix.


Related: How To Get Rid Of An Ingrown Toenail At Home


Causes of vertical ridges in toenails

This type is common even among healthy people. They are usually evenly spaced.

  • Age

As you get older, the vertical ridges become more pronounced. The nail matrix will become more atrophied as you age, worsening the vertical ridges.

  • Trauma

Injuries like cuts, smashing, bruises and tears cause vertical ridging. In this case, the nail will usually heal itself. You may need an OTC to help prevent infection.

  • Lack of moisture

A lack of moisture results in dryness. The nail, hands, and cuticles all experience dryness resulting in the ridges. People who live in hot areas or do manual labor have dry hands, causing dryness.

  •  Diseases and Toxins

Lung and kidney disease, as well as skin conditions like psoriasis, cause vertical ridges on the toenails.

  • Malnutrition and malabsorption

A lack of vitamin B-12, zinc, calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and silica causes the appearance of the ridges.

When can ridges in toenails be serious?

Most times, vertical ridges are harmless, especially if they are evenly spaced over the whole toenail. If you notice the following, you need to visit your podiatrist:


  • When you have a single vertical streak, you need to see the doctor, as there could be a tumor growing at the nail’s root.


  • Or the ridges have appeared and have become pronounced very quickly, it could be a sign of lichen planus. This condition is very rare. It causes skin rash.


Horizontal ridges are more likely to point to a problem. A single instance of a horizontal ridge could be as a result of the body fighting off an illness. Recurrent horizontal ridges could be indicators of a chronic disease. If the ridges keep occurring as the nail forms, it could be a sign that there is a problem in creating the nail – a pointer to lung, liver, GI or kidney disease.

If the following symptoms accompany horizontal ridges, you need to see your podiatrist urgently:

  1.  Nail discoloration : making them look blue, white or yellow, more that they usually are. (The nail bed could be discolored).
  2. A wide dark streak on the nail.
  3. Pitting on the nail.
  4. White lines on the nails.


 Tips for prevention

If you have ridges in toenails, the following measures can alleviate the problem. You, however, need to visit your podiatrist if the above-discussed symptoms accompany the ridges. If the ridges do not point to any serious problem, you need to:

  •  Hydrate : drink a lot of water
  •  Moisturize the affected nail frequently using petroleum jelly or thick lotion : play close attention to the cuticle throughout the day
  •  Intake a balanced diet : include all the minerals that you could be lacking – omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. You can also intake vitamin supplements.

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