Do you bite your fingernails? Are they long and strong, or do they split or break? Fingernails draw our attention, although only a few nail conditions actually seem to interest dermatologists as indicators of underlying disease. What is the story on ridged fingernails?
Vertically Ridged Fingernails:
Q. I have vertical ridges on almost all my fingernails. Do you know what causes this? Is there anything I could do to improve it?
A. Although they are annoying, vertical (longitudinal) ridges on the fingernails do not appear to be dangerous. These ridges (known medically as onychorrhexis) are frequently attributed to aging. (Horizontal ridges are quite another matter and should be brought to the attention of your health care provider. They might simply indicate a previous nail injury, but occasionally they signal a health problem such as heart disease, infection or diabetes.)
Sometimes vertically ridged nails are also brittle. Anemia and atherosclerosis sometimes cause brittle, ridged fingernails (Canadian Family Physician, Feb., 2011).
Do You Need Supplements?
You should ask your doctor if you need supplements of iron or B vitamins to correct anemia. A few small studies have suggested that taking biotin (2.5 mg/day) can help correct ridging and fragility (Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, Aug.,2007).
One reader reported:
“A dermatologist told me to take biotin for my nails when they were splitting and cracking. I started taking a daily supplement of biotin and my nails improved greatly within three months. My son, who is a pharmacist, recommended a product containing biotin, calcium and phosphorus; my nails are strong and ridge-free.”
Other common-sense approaches include protecting the nails from prolonged exposure to water, detergent and household chemicals. How? Wear waterproof gloves when washing dishes or doing chores, preferable with cotton glove liners. This may not change the ridging at all, but it may help reduce brittleness.