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Q: Symptom of a Medical Condition ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Symptom of a Medical Condition
Category: Health > Conditions and Diseases
Asked by: sailor30087-ga
List Price: $9.50
Posted: 07 Dec 2003 18:56 PST
Expires: 06 Jan 2004 18:56 PST
Question ID: 284566
What is the medical condition or disease which has "ridged
fingernails" as a symptom.  The ridges are vertical and give the nail
a washboard appearance versus the normal smooth nail.
Subject: Re: Symptom of a Medical Condition
Answered By: boquinha-ga on 08 Dec 2003 00:31 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello sailor30087-ga! 

Thank you for an interesting question. I must confess that I never
gave much thought to the shape of my fingernails, but you have me
examining my own right now!

When defining ?vertical ridges,? I (and according to my research, most
medical professionals) consider them to be ridges originating
proximally at the nail bed and terminating at the distal end of the
nail (or the fingertip). Transverse, or horizontal ridges are those
that run from left to right (or right to left) across the fingernail.
The distinction is important for determining the clinical significance
of the ridges.

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Educational provider for the nail industry and consumers

Marti Preuss is an educator in the nail care field and provides an
excellent description of the pattern of growth for fingernails. She
describes the nail bed, which is the origin of the nail itself, as
consisting of two types of tissue: surface epidermis and deeper
dermis. These layers are also present in the skin. The dermis is
attached to the bone and the epidermis is located beneath the nail
plate. As the nail bed ?produces? more nail in a linear growth
pattern, the epidermis moves forward. This epidermis is attached to
the dermis by what Preuss describes as ?tiny rails and grooves? that
allow movement. She likens this to a train riding on tracks. The nail
plate thins as we age and the evidence of the ?rail and groove?
becomes more prominent and we see vertical ridges. These are not
usually pathological in nature and represent a normal aging pattern.

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From Novartis, makers of Lamisil cream

In an informational handout about Lamisil, an anti-fungal cream, there
is a list and brief description of a variety of nail abnormalities. It
describes both vertical and transverse ridges. It also states that
vertical ridges are the result of the natural aging process, appearing
first in middle age and becoming more prominent with time. Transverse
ridges indicate a level of health at a specific moment in time. In
times of illness there can be a slight deficiency in (or even an
absence of) the normal linear growth pattern, leading to a transverse
ridge that will progress out toward the fingertip as the nail
continues to grow. While there is not much that can be done to prevent
vertical ridging, a healthy diet and lifestyle may enable you to
prevent the transverse ridging. Once a ridge is present you must wait
for the nail to completely ?grow out? for the ridge to disappear. An
interesting bit of trivia: according to the pamphlet, fingernails take
approximately 9 months to grow out completely, with the middle
fingernail growing most rapidly. Toenails take approximately 18 months
to grow out completely.

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Altmedangel is a non-profit site that promotes natural remedies to
illness. The site also offers educational material and research on
various conditions, medications, supplements, and therapies.

According to, vertical ridges may be an indicator of
those prone to develop arthritis and horizontal ridges indicate severe
stress or illness, either physical or psychological. It also states
that abnormalities in the nail may indicate that your diet is lacking
in iron, calcium, zinc, protein, silicon, or vitamins A, B, and C.

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MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia

This online medical encyclopedia lists a number of other causes of
nail abnormalities. These abnormalities may include vertical or
transverse ridging, in addition to several others.

-A crush injury to the nail bed may lead to irreversible vertical or
horizontal ridging depending on the extent of the injury.

-Infection of the nail bed (fungal, bacterial, viral) can lead to
varied ridging, which is usually associated with a change in nail
color as well.

-Viral warts, when in or near the nail bed, can put pressure on the
nail plate and cause ridging in a line tracing back to the wart

-Disorders leading to reduced oxygen levels in the blood (abnormal
heart anatomy, chronic lung diseases) can lead to ?clubbing?, or a
rounded appearance similar to back of a teaspoon. This type of nail
abnormality warrants notifying your personal physician.

-Kidney disease, leading to an excess of nitrogen waste, can cause
nail abnormalities.

-Liver disease, including chronic liver failure, can also cause nail abnormalities.

-Hyper- or hypothyroidism often leads to brittle nails, or possibly a
separation of the nail bed from the nail plate (?onycholysis?).

-Infection (usually of one of the heart valves) may lead to ?splinter
hemorrhages,? which are red streaks visible beneath the nail plate.
The presence of such streaking is a medical urgency and should be
reported immediately to your personal physician.

-Amyloidosis, a systemic connective tissue disease, can cause varied
abnormalities of the nail.

-Severe illness/stress can lead to a complete cessation of nail growth
during the time of stress. This results in a deep depression, or
complete absence of the nail, known as ?Beau?s lines.?

-Vitamin deficiency/malnutrition can lead to brittle nails, or a
change in the appearance of the nails, depending on the specific
nutrient that is deficient. Iron deficiency is a common cause of nail
abnormalities, usually presenting as a depressed nail with elevated
ridges toward the outside of the nail.

-Psoriasis can lead to ?pitting? (or depression) of the nail,
onycholysis, or nail dystrophy (misshapen nails). Psoriasis rarely
exhibits nail findings alone, however, and is usually associated with
flaking of the scalp, or silvery, dry patches on the elbows, knees,

-Arsenic poisoning, while rare today, can manifest itself as white
lines and horizontal ridges on the nail.

-Silver, usually taken as a colloidal supplement, can lead to argyria,
or an irreversible blue hue of the skin, secondary to deposition of
the metal within the skin. This color change is also present beneath
the nail plate.

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To summarize, vertical ridges usually represent a normal aging
pattern, and some consider the presence of such ridges to be an
indicator of those at risk for developing arthritis. At any rate,
vertical ridges can be considered ?normal? and medically

Transverse, or horizontal, ridges, however, usually represent an
underlying pathological process?trauma, vitamin deficiency, chronic
illness, etc.  The presence of nail ridges, along with any symptoms of
illness should be discussed with your personal physician to determine
an underlying cause.

Thank you again for your interesting question. It sounds like good
news for whomever it is you may be describing in your question since
the ridges are vertical and not horizontal! Should you need further
clarification, please let me know how I can help.  Happy Holidays!


Google search terms used:
Fingernail ?vertical ridge?
Fingernail ?transverse ridge?
Fingernail ?horizontal ridge?
Fingernail abnormality
sailor30087-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
I had read something years ago about these ridges.  I believe it must
have been arthritis that was referred to in the article. You certainly
covered the topic. Thanks and Happy Holidays.

Subject: Re: Symptom of a Medical Condition
From: boquinha-ga on 08 Dec 2003 07:21 PST
You're very welcome! And thank you for the kind words and 5-star
rating! It is much appreciated!


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