What Causes Waves in Fingernails?

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Your fingernails provide warning signs, alerting you to possible underlying medical conditions that you may have to address. While most fingernail waves are natural, part of the aging process or just a natural part of your body, some conditions warrant more concern. If you know the warning signs, your nails can give you important advanced warning about your physical health, allowing you to seek early treatment before your condition worsens.

Your fingernails react to your body's physical condition.
Your fingernails react to your body's physical condition. (Image: Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images)

Aging

The natural aging process can create long vertical waves in your fingernails, which extend from your cuticle to the end of your nails. Vertical waves are generally not a health concern, unless the ridges are unnaturally pronounced. The severity of your nail’s waves will increase as you age and become more pronounced. If you notice any discoloration in your nails, nail beds or cuticles, consult your doctor about other conditions that may require attention. This includes vertical red lines that may be a sign of high blood pressure or arthritis, or horizontal white lines that may indicate kidney disease, heart disease or Hodgkin’s disease.

Aging can affect fingernails.
Aging can affect fingernails. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Malnutrition

Malnutrition can present itself in multiple ways in your fingernails. This includes the formation of horizontal ridges, the vertical splitting of your fingernails from the tip towards cuticle, brittle nails or white spots on your nails. If you notice these issues, consider your diet and make sure you are getting enough vitamins and essential nutrients. Add a daily vitamin supplement to your diet and watch your nails to see if the problem areas clear up after a few weeks. If they do not, or if they worsen, consult your physician about other steps to improve your nail health.

Fast food or a bad diet can contribute.
Fast food or a bad diet can contribute. (Image: Matthew Ennis/iStock/Getty Images)

Anemia

Anemia is a deficiency in the number of red blood cells in your body. Anemia can present itself in your nails through vertical waves in your nails, unusually white nails, flat nails or an upward curve of your nails at the tips. Other symptoms include fatigue, increased heart rate and dizziness. If you notice any combination in these symptoms, consult your physician immediately and tell her what you noticed. Anemia can be a serious condition and requires a doctor’s attention.

Anemia definition and blood sample.
Anemia definition and blood sample. (Image: alexskopje/iStock/Getty Images)

Advanced Complications

Nail clubbing is the downward curve of your nails, along the curvature of your finger. This can indicate an underlying heart or lung condition. If you notice a clubbing in your nails, consult your doctor immediately, especially if you have a history of heart or lung problems, or if your family has a medical history of these conditions.

Talk to your doctor about concerns and family history.
Talk to your doctor about concerns and family history. (Image: Monkey Business Images/Monkey Business/Getty Images)

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