Understanding Beau’s Lines: Ridges In Fingernails Explained

nail lines

Most people tend to overlook a significant indicator of one’s health state - nails and changes in their appearance. Our fingernails have a vital role in our everyday tasks and can indicate specific health issues.

One of the most common nail changes that can pinpoint health trouble is called Beau’s nails. This nail deformation is characterized by the interruption of nail growth at the nail matrix (the point where the nail emerges from the finger).

Horizontal Ridges In Nails     

Beau’s lines are the medical name for horizontal ridges or indentations growing across the fingernails. These ridges usually develop straight across your nail. You can have one or multiple Beau’s lines on one or more of your fingernails. Different kinds of health conditions can affect the nails and develop these horizontal ridges.

Another type of horizontal ridge in nails is splinter hemorrhage. These lines are usually black and related to local trauma, such as having your finger stuck in a door. Alternatively, the cause of splinter hemorrhage can be a medical condition like psoriasis or endocarditis.

Horizontal ridges in nails can also be brown or black, and this condition is known as melanonychia. They usually represent a harmless nail coloration, but in some cases, they may be a sign of an infection or trauma. 

Vertical Lines On Nails

Vertical lines on nails stretch from the cuticle to the tip of your nail. As you age, changes occur in the cell turnover within your nail. Therefore, numerous and prominent vertical nail ridges are a common sign of aging. 

Finding some lines extending from the cuticle to the top of the nail is usually not a cause of concern. Many healthy middle-aged women have some form of longitudinal ridging as a normal part of the process of nail aging. 

Apart from aging, vertical or longitudinal ridges on the fingernails commonly occur in healthy individuals due to improper nutrition and hydration. In fact, middle-aged and older people experience this condition due to the reduced capacity of aging nails to absorb nutrients. 

Beau’s Lines: Causes

The cause for Beau’s lines often lies in common injuries or environmental factors like getting a manicure, picking or biting your cuticles, and getting a nail infection around its edge. However, if you notice these ridges on more than one nail, that is likely a sign of a serious disease or prolonged exposure to harmful environmental factors. 

Below, we have listed a few potential causes of Beau’s lines.

1. Acute Kidney Failure

When Beau’s nails are accompanied by other symptoms like confusion, lethargy, and urination issues, they may be the result of acute kidney failure. Acute kidney failure refers to the rapid shutdown of the kidneys’ function over a short period (usually around two days). This is a severe condition that requires urgent medical attention.

2. Thyroid Disease

Thyroid disease is an umbrella term for health issues relating to the production of hormones in the thyroid gland. These hormones have an essential role in regulating many functions in the human body, such as metabolism and growth. Beau’s lines can develop as a result of various thyroid disorders, including hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and Hashimoto’s disease. 

3. Diabetes

Diabetes can interrupt nail growth and cause nail changes like Beau’s lines. This is a serious disorder that requires regular monitoring of your blood sugar levels and administration of insulin. Excessive blood sugar levels can lead to various complications, such as heart disease and nerve damage.

4. Chemotherapy

A common side effect of chemotherapy is interrupting proper nail growth from the nail matrix. This can lead to the development of Beau’s lines. 

5. Melanoma

Subungual melanoma is one of the rarest and most severe causes of nail growth impairment. This disease usually leads to nail discoloration with brown stripes or sections. 

6. Zinc Deficiency

Beau’s lines can be a sign that you consume insufficient amounts of zinc or proteins. Zinc is an essential mineral found in oysters, beans, and many other healthy foods. Incorporating these foods into your diet can resume normal nail growth.


Changes in the appearance of our nails can say a lot about our health. Beau’s lines are a critical nail issue that you should not disregard, as they may be a sign of various health problems. 

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