What Do Ridges in Toenails Mean?

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The appearance of your nails may suggest the state of your overall health.
The appearance of your nails may suggest the state of your overall health. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Your fingernails and toenails are indicative of your overall health. Some variation in the form, shape or appearance of your nails can be attributed to your age or harmless lifestyle factors. Other changes in your nails could be signals that you are suffering from chronic or possibly fatal health problems.

Vertical Toenail Ridges

Examine your nails for patterns in the ridging. Do the ridges on your toenails move vertically or horizontally? If the ridges are vertical, your nails likely appear that way because of heredity. These ridges may grow more prominent as you age, but they are usually not a sign of health problems.

Horizontal Toenail Ridges

Horizontal ridging in the toenail is likely not an issue of heredity, but a warning of a health problem. These ridges could be indicative of malnutrition, an impending heart attack or respiratory disease. You should seek medical assistance immediately and share any other symptoms of problems that you may be having with your doctor.

Beau's Lines

Similar to horizontal ridging in the toenail, Beau's Lines refers to deeper horizontal depressions on the nails. Malnutrition can also play a role in Beau's Lines, but they are also caused by illnesses characterized by high fevers, untreated diabetes and circulatory problems.

Koilonychia and Brittle Nails

Koilonychia is a condition characterized by thin, vertical ridging in thinned, concave nails. This is usually a sign of iron deficiency, although Koilonychia can also be caused by frequent exposure to chemicals like nail polish or an injury to the nailbed. Brittle nails can cause splitting or ridging in the nails. Increase your intake of Vitamins D and B, as well as calcium, to promote better nail health.

Improving Health and Removing Lines

When you seek treatment for the underlying health problem that has caused ridges in your toenails, the ridges should disappear. Take note of any other changes in your nails in the future, such as discoloration, nail shape or nails separating from the nail bed. Following American nutrition guidelines, seeking at least 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity a few times per week and managing your chronic health problems should prevent future toenail problems. If ridging persists, talk to your doctor again.

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