Ridges on your nails can be indicators of health problems. But aging is the most common reason for ridged nails, according to Dr. Phoebe Rich, M.D., FAAD, clinical adjunct professor of dermatology at Oregon Health Science University.
"As we age the nail matrix becomes atrophied in areas resulting in longitudinal ridging of nails. I tell people they are like wrinkles in the nails," said Rich in an interview with the Huffington Post. The ridges can be caused by the nail’s inability to retain moisture. Vertical nail ridges are usually harmless.
Rich said, "Vertical ridges can also be caused by nail injury and certain diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis."
Jessica Krant, M.D., a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center said that "a single vertical streak could be a sign of a tumor growing at the root of the nail."
If ridges in your nails have grown quickly, and have become more pronounced over a short period of time, this could be a sign of a rare condition called lichen planus (LY-kin PLAN-us). The condition is not contagious and cannot be transmitted to anyone.
Lichen planus can change the look of your fingernails, as well as your toenails. It is also important to note that the disease can develop on one or a few parts of the body. It can be inside your mouth, scalp, genitalia and skin.
If you think you have lichen planus, contact your health practitioner right away.
Three other conditions that may result in nail ridges are Beau’s lines, puffiness around the skin, and nail pitting.
Beau’s lines appear like dented lines across the entire nail bed. A shortage of zinc in your diet or diabetes may cause them.
Nail pitting is different than Beau’s lines. It resembles ice pick dents in the nail.