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.

Beau’s Lines In Toenails

Beau's lines in toenails are characterized by horizontal depressions or ridges that appear on the surface of the nail. These lines are typically caused by a disruption in the growth of the nail at the nail matrix, which is where the nail starts to form. There are several factors that can contribute to the development of Beau's lines in toenails.

Common factors leading to Beau's lines in toenails include systemic illnesses like uncontrolled diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, and circulatory issues. Trauma to the toe or foot, severe illness, malnutrition, chemotherapy, and certain medications can also cause these lines to appear.

Depending on the underlying cause, individuals may also experience other symptoms related to their overall health condition. In some cases, individuals may experience recurrent episodes of Beau's lines in their toenails. This may be due to ongoing or chronic health conditions that continue to disrupt the growth of the nails. In these cases, ongoing management and treatment of the underlying condition is necessary to prevent the recurrence of Beau's lines.

Diagnosing Beau's lines in toenails involves a thorough examination of the affected nails and a comprehensive review of the individual's medical history to identify any potential underlying causes. In some cases, additional tests or blood work may be necessary to determine if there are any systemic conditions contributing to the development of Beau's lines.

The treatment for Beau's lines in toenails focuses on addressing the underlying cause. It is important to manage systemic conditions such as diabetes or vascular disease in order to improve the health of the nails. Proper foot care, including regular trimming and moisturizing of the nails, can also help prevent further damage.

Beau’s Lines In Fingernails

Beau’s lines in fingernails, similar to those in toenails, are characterized by transverse depressions or ridges on the nail plate of the fingers. It is important to understand the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for Beau’s lines in fingernails in order to effectively manage this condition.

The causes of Beau’s lines in fingernails are similar to those in toenails and can include systemic illnesses like diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, severe infections, malnutrition, chemotherapy, and certain medications. Trauma to the fingers or hands can also contribute to the development of Beau’s lines.

Individuals with Beau’s lines in fingernails may observe visible horizontal depressions or ridges on their nails. Depending on the underlying cause, additional symptoms related to associated health conditions may also be present. In some cases, the ridges or depressions caused by Beau’s lines may gradually grow out as the nails continue to grow. Therefore, it may take several months for the nails to fully recover and for the ridges to disappear.

Diagnosing Beau’s lines in fingernails involves a thorough examination of the affected nails and a comprehensive review of the individual's medical history to identify potential underlying causes. Healthcare providers may perform additional tests or blood work to assess for systemic conditions that may be contributing to the development of Beau’s lines.

Treatment for Beau’s lines in fingernails focuses on addressing the underlying cause. Managing systemic conditions such as diabetes or vascular disease is crucial for improving nail health. Proper hand and nail care, including regular trimming and moisturizing of the nails, can also help prevent further damage.

Can Beau’s Lines Be Harmless?

Fortunately, Beau's lines are usually harmless and tend to resolve on their own once the underlying cause is addressed. For instance, if the lines are a result of an injury to the nail bed, such as a crush injury or a severe manicure, they may fade away as the nail grows out and regenerates. Similarly, if the lines are caused by a temporary ailment like a high fever, nutritional deficiency, or a systemic illness, they may disappear as the body recovers.

However, it is important to pay attention to any changes in the nails and seek medical advice if there are concerns about underlying health conditions. In some cases, Beau's lines can be a sign of more serious issues, such as malnutrition, thyroid disorders, diabetes, or certain autoimmune diseases. Therefore, if the lines persist, worsen, or are accompanied by other symptoms like discoloration, pain, or swelling, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

If Beau's lines appear suddenly and cover a large area, it is important to seek medical advice. Other symptoms like changes in nail color, shape, or texture should also be taken into consideration. If there is a history of chronic illnesses or ongoing medical treatments, it is advisable to consult a healthcare provider. They can evaluate the situation thoroughly and provide appropriate management if necessary.

A healthcare provider will conduct a comprehensive assessment, which may include a physical examination, medical history review, and possibly additional diagnostic tests. Based on the findings, they can provide appropriate guidance and treatment options if necessary. This may involve addressing the underlying health issue, adjusting medications, or recommending lifestyle changes to promote overall well-being.

Will Beau’s Lines Go Away?

Beau’s lines are unlikely to go away on their own. They will only go away when the affected part of the nail grows out completely. As the nails continue to grow, the lines will gradually move toward the edge of the nail and eventually be trimmed off during regular nail maintenance. It is important to address the underlying cause of Beau’s lines to prevent them from coming back.

The main focus in managing Beau’s lines is to address the conditions that caused them. For instance, if someone had a severe illness or injury that led to Beau’s lines, once they recover, new nail growth should be healthy and free from these lines. If malnutrition or certain diseases are responsible for Beau’s lines, seeking medical treatment and following a proper care routine can help improve nail health over time.

In addition to addressing the underlying cause, it is important to maintain good nail hygiene and overall health. Keeping the nails clean and dry, avoiding nail injuries, and having a balanced diet with essential nutrients can promote healthy nail growth and reduce the occurrence of Beau’s lines.


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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