Ridges in Fingernails: 8 Health Warnings Your Fingernails May Be Sending

ridges in fingernails

Fingernails and disease don’t go together in most minds… but they should. Your fingernails can give you valuable health warnings and signal the presence of serious disease.

Take a good long look at your nails. Hold a hand level with your nose about a foot out from your face and scrutinize each one.

Look at the curves, dips, ridges, and grooves. Check out how thick or thin they are and if your nails are chipped or broken. Make a note of the color of the nail itself, the skin under it, and the skin around the nail.

Check your memory — have your nails always looked like this? Changes to your fingernails and disease onset are linked, so note any new developments. With this fresh view, compare what you see with this list of eight potential fingernail health warnings.

 1. Discolored nails

Ridges in FingernailsA healthy fingernail should be pink with a touch of pinkish white (moons) near the base. If your nails are a dull color or streaked with other colors, you may have a serious hidden health problem.

  • Green nails are a sign of bacterial infection
  • Red streaks in your nail bed are a warning of a heart valve infection
  • Blueish nails signal low oxygen levels in your blood
  • Dull nails mean a vitamin deficiency
  • White nails may signal liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • Dark stripes at the top (Terry’s nails) are associated with aging and congestive heart failure

Scrub those nails clean and really look at your nail color! Given the “rainbow” of potential health challenges, you want to be sure you see what your fingers are saying.

2. Thick nails

Thick nails are not natural. You want your nails to be strong, but if they resemble talons or claws more than traditional nails watch out!

  • Thickened nails that are otherwise normal can signal lung disease
  • Thick and rough-textured nails can signal a fungal infection
  • Thick and separated nails may mean thyroid disease or psoriasis
  • Unusual thickness may also be a symptom of a circulation problem

Thickening nails are a change that should tune you in to other health symptoms you may be ignoring. Also watch out for allergic reactions to new medications which can show up as suddenly thick nails!

3. Split nails

split fingernails Split nails aren’t just occasionally chipped or shut in doors. Instead, these nails seem to flake away in layers. Don’t blame frequent handwashing or nail polish for everything, especially since:

  • Split nails result from folic acid, Vitamin C, and protein deficiencies
  • Split nails combined with a pitted nail bed (base) can signal psoriasis, which begins in nails 10% of the time according to WebMD
  • Split nails may result from chronic malnutrition

Watch what you eat and check the psoriasis connection to fight back and pay more attention to your health overall.


 4. Concave (Spoon) nails

concave fingernailSpoon fingernails signal a number of internal issues. To be considered full spoons, nails will be soft and curve up, forming a dip that is often big enough to hold water. Spoon nails signal:

  • Iron deficiency (usually from anemia)
  • Hemachromatosis, a liver disorder where your body absorbs too much iron
  • Heart disease
  • Hypothyroidism

Your fingernail and health challenges go hand in hand — for many people, clearing up their health issue results in their spoon nails returning back to normal.

5. Pitted nails

pitted fingernailsSmall dips or holes in your nails can be a result of banging up your hands — or they could be a sign that you need to look more closely at your health. Nail pitting can signal:

  • Psoriasis
  • Connective tissue disorder
  • Alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss
  • Zinc deficiency (when the pit seems to form a line across the middle of your nail)

Watch your hand to separate natural dents and dings from real, lasting pits. The first will clear up quickly, but pits linked to disease linger.

6. Ridges in Fingernails

ridges in fingernailsNails should have smooth surfaces with almost imperceptible lines. Obvious ridge lines are a signal that something is up with your body. Some of the most common conditions associated with heavy ridge lines are:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Inflammatory arthritis
  • Lupus (for red lines at the base of your nails)

Don’t just buff away your ridges — hear their warning!

7. Dry, brittle nails

You don’t need lotion or cuticle oil. If your nails are dry and brittle, you should check your hormone levels and bacterial health.

  • Thyroid disease leads to brittle, dry fingernails that crack and split easily
  • Fungus can make nails dry or even crumbly, affecting 12% of all Americans according to the American Academy of Dermatology

Both thyroid and fungal issues take time to treat, so you won’t see a difference in the look of your fingernails for a full growth cycle.

8. Clubbed nails

fingernailsIf you have plump skin that seems to swell around the nail, or if your nails seem to have puffed around your fingers, they are said to be “clubbed”. Clubbed nails can mean:

  • Lung disease, especially if you already have trouble breathing
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Liver disease
  • AIDS

Your fingernails won’t be the only signs of these diseases, but they can provide confirmation or motivation to seek medical care.

Don’t ignore your hands or the health warnings they send. Fingernails and disease are more closely related than you think — check your nails often to protect your health!


Trimarchi, M. Top 5 Things Your Nails Say About Your Health. Discovery Health.

Mayo Clinic. Slide Show: 7 Fingernail Problems Not to Ignore. 2011 Dec 8.

Rauh, S. Healthy Fingernails: Clues About Your Health. WebMD.

Danoff, R. Can Fingernails Indicate a Health Problem? MSN Health.

Wikipedia. Nail Disease.

Filed Under: General Health
Written By:  Updated:
my avatar

Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

Sign Up Now For LESS PAIN, MORE LIFE Our FREE E-Newsletter…

Kiss your pain goodbye when you sign up to receive our free, LIVE PAIN FREE email newsletter, which is always full of the latest and most powerful, pain relieving information from the world’s leading pain relief experts.

Sign Me Up!

We are 100% Anti-Spam Compliant

52 thoughts on “Ridges in Fingernails: 8 Health Warnings Your Fingernails May Be Sending”

  1. Margo Rose Smith says:

    Thank you for the information about nails! I never realized before how the nails tell us about our health issues.

  2. iFX says:

    What about toenails? do they say something similar?

    1. Joyce Woods says:

      I have struggled with fungal toenails for many years and have found nothing to cure this chronic problem.
      I just keep them hidden with nail polish. Can you help rid this condition? Thank you.
      Looking forward to your email
      Joyce woods {Regular customer for Rub On Relief Cream}

      1. Deb says:

        oh lord Joyc. You cant hid fungus. It will only get worse. Use Tea Tree Oil for your fungus and see what happens

      2. Kimberly Edmondson says:

        My toe nails are pretty much infected
        I go for pedicures to thin out my toe nails

        any way does this help and what should I do

        1. Zainabu says:

          Go to the doctor

        2. Deborah says:

          Want to know more about toenails that peal on a diabetic..Have had to keep them covered .so I will not peel them away

  3. sarbjit singh sandhu says:

    Very informative please guide how to get more knowlage &study these conditions

  4. Paul West says:

    I’m also interested in the toe nails too. Seems like they are so much different than my finger nails. I’m sure that they have different “tells.” If you have that information, could you please pass it on. It’s interesting and can change lives, I’m sure.

  5. allene brown says:

    Wonderful information….your informative emails, etc. benefit hundreds of people. Thank you so much.

  6. Margie says:

    Thanks for the good information regarding finger nail health and body health. I would love to see information on tongue health and body health. I have deep crevaces in the middle forward part of my tongue and it sometimes gets sore. I know this must coralate to health issues but there is no information from doctors on this. Thanks for all the good health information you provide, you keep inproving, keep up the good work. Sincerely, Margie

    1. Melinda says:

      Google Chinese medicine and tongue health

    2. Admin says:

      You may be interested in this article regarding Tongue Health


      Thank you
      (Healthy Back Institute)

    3. Dean Rask says:

      Hiya, try your dentist for advice, good luck, Dean

      1. Ruth Kay says:

        Can you tell me how to get to your article about how to become more regular.

  7. Maria Gay says:

    I had to use drugs to eliminate H. pylori bacteria. It caused the nail beds on all my fingers (half moons) turn purple, when that grew out all my nails had dents in them. when the dents grew to the top of my nails the top part of the nails tore off and so far still not normal. This medication was taken approx in June 2011, it is now Januari 2012. The medication did not cure the pylori problem. Second time I took de medication it caused enormous pain from beginning Oktober 2011 till Dec. 2011 when I found a natural product to ease the pain. Pain has not quite disappeared. MG

  8. Patti Higgins says:

    To Margie ~ I’ve been iron deficient for several years, and I know that some of the signs that my ferritin was low was when my taste buds were flat and my tongue became sore.

  9. Marilee says:

    To Margie—Research Vitamin B deficiencies. A geographic tongue (looking like a topographical map) and a sore, shiny tongue tip, with few taste buds, are two of the classic B deficiency symptoms. Whole books have been written about Vit B deficiencies. Remember that the B’s are synergistic. If you increase one, you need to increase all of them. Extended increased intake of a single B vitamin can result in deficiencies in the other B vitamins. As this site repeatedly tells us, consider supplements to be supplements, not food replacements, nor magic pills to compensate for poor food choices. The Internet search features are helpful, as well as books, but the books concentrating on just the B vitamins are gold mines. CureZone is a self-help site with participants who come from all over the globe. It takes a long time to get your tongue in A-1 shape, again, but you can do it. Adelle Davis reported excellent B info in her books roughly 50 years ago, and much more info has been gathered from research in the intervening years. Good luck!

    To the Site: Thank you for the nail info, especilly the pics. I have also been told that convex fingernails, or nails that are domed on top, with the tips aimed downward, are called club fingernails (but I’ve not seen this in writing), and are an indication of congestive heart failure in the making. Three people I knew with nails like those did, in fact, die of congestive heart failure. A 50-something mother and her 30-something daughter have those distinctive fingernails, though, and, so far, neither has been given that diagnosis, although I don’t know whether they’ve asked about the significance of their nails or had their hearts checked. I suspect that they only see a doctor when home remedies for a problem are unsuccessful.

    I’d like to know why my nails curve around into the flesh. From the tips, they look like a segment of a cylinder that has been cut vertically and stuck down into the nail bed. My mother’s were the same way, but my siblings have normal nails. I’d also like to know why some people have nails that tend to curl at the cut ends. I’ve seen many newborns with nails that curled, and my sister’s toenails still curled in her 60s. Maybe somebody knows the answers to my questions? Best wishes to everyone.

    1. Peter Sheedy says:

      I’d assume abnormal growth is caused by growth hormones or bacteria by products (=wastes) used as food by our bodies. Similar to 1 sided nutrition, making some things grow fast but others don’t get (similar effect with artificial fertilizers on plants).
      Otherwise, Esmog bends (=interferes) with your body’s coordination, producing extremes. Facit: diat &/or nutrition make a difference for the bacteria flora preferences.
      I don’t know what foods you’ll need, & need to avoid to get better. Good luck finding a nutrition expert related to infections. Try Prof Keith Scott Mumby. -Peter Sheedy,

  10. Dot Bardarson says:

    All my nailes look perfect except the middle nail on my right hand which has a white streak that goes from the tip to the cuticle. It splits along that line. I need the nail to play the guitar, so I take a T bag and cut it in the shape of the nail. My husband glues it on with Nail Glue (or superglue). Then I trim the edge to the shape I want. Since doing this, the nail is growing out and I hope one day that the split will not reappear. I’ve had the problem with this nail for a year and a half, but I think I’m on the right track with the T bag method of repair. On the other hand, the white thin line is still there, so I imagine the nail is vulnerable to another split. Should I be nourishing it topically or with special diet?

  11. Patricia says:

    Half crescents at the base of the nails are also an indication of health. The more you have them the healthier you are. I believe as we get older and older, the size is getting smaller and smaller until it totally disappear.

    God bless and good health for such good information for health awareness.

  12. Carmencita Caliliw says:

    Thanks , this is very informative . I didn’t realised that just by looking @ fingernails you will know what wrong with your body.

  13. oyinlola says:

    Thank you for this useful information about fingernails!

  14. june says:

    I too am interested in toe nails. Could you also publish info on toe nails?

    1. Peter Sheedy says:

      Toes are a bit different, because we wear shoes, & sweat in them.
      Toe nail fungi are a nuicance, producing abnormal thick claws (expansion);
      & very difficult to get rid of. Try daily foot baths in either NaHCO3 or Borax, teaspoon or tablespoon per liter, 5..20 min daily, for at least a month continuously. Some fungi can’t tolerate Alkaline. Getting a healthy foot bacteria flora would then help keep the fungi away afterwards. If you can’t stop the infection you might be able to change it to a different one. Some bacillus found in healthy forests, produce enough toxins to eliminate bad infections. Go walking barefoot in mosey healthy forests or healthy mud often & see what happens. If your feet stink like after walking in a (stagnant) puddle (in the city), that you can’t get rid of, then you caught the wrong infection. Even a natural river or stream might be helpful. Up at the cottage in granite stone lakes territory, with fresh rain water, I never had toe nail problems. Moving to chalky areas, began all my problems. Maybe it was the fluoride from the feldspar in the granite, & sunlight (UV) that prevented all that. Good luck.

  15. Elsie Morgan says:

    I used to bite my nails way into adult hood, and stopped wen I got my dentures, (I am a 83 year old senior).) My problem is on the outside of some of my nails nail there are “growths” that grow independant of the whole nail, like slivers, of sorts and I trim them to stop them from
    snagging my clothes made of various fabrics. And it also catches my hair, and often breaks it off. I want to know how to stop those slivers from growing. Are they ingrown nails, similar to ingrown toenails?
    I would like my nails to grow attatched to the sides all the way up to the top of the finger.
    . I do hope I have made myself clear.I have been told to use geletin powderpackets, mixed
    with vasaline. before going to bed to strengthen my nails. Does that treatment really work. I might mention that when I was 21 I had an upper right lobectomy, but no lung problems since, I do have Sjogrens Syndrom, Asthma, and use a Coped Inhaler. I no longer have pedicures because I now have a fungus I cant, seem to get rid of even with medication. Please address these issues if you can.. I really would like to get rid of what ails me.

    1. debbie davies says:

      im sure they still make gelatine capsules to strengthen nails dry your hands thoroughly rub vicks into your hands before you go to bed wear cotton gloves after you have done this so you dont rub your eyes in your sleep i did this every night for about 3 weeks and have never had a problem since I so hope this helps you Elsie darling as years ago it worked for me have a wonderful day Debs

  16. Joyce Garforth says:

    Like the comments of the above people, thank you very much for keeping us so well informed.

  17. April says:

    Thank you for a very informative article. I have severe thyroid disease, although it was surgically removed years ago (it has since regrown w/cysts and nodules, but no signs of cancer). Now I was diagnosed with adrenal disease. Your description of my nails is totally accurate. I’ve been told there is no cure other than taking artificial hormones. Although my blood test results appear normal, my nails still look the same.

  18. Rosemarie says:

    My nails grow curved under and have never seen an explanation what that tells about health

  19. Marc says:

    Hola! I’ve been reading your website for a long time now and finally got the courage
    to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita Tx!

    Just wanted to say keep up the good work!

  20. ALI says:

    Your articles are very beneficial to many, Since I started reading them, my pain have reduced and believe that one day I will be R.A free.

    Keep on helping people and God will reward you.

  21. nicki says:

    Interesting about nails and health problems, I have an underactive thyroid and apparently spoon nails is related to this problem as well as split nails.

  22. Martha Rojas says:

    Thank you for the information. I have one nail that has ridges and is thin no matter what I do. I do have thyroid problems but I have been taking meds to balance my thyroid. The problem with my left ring finger will not go away.

  23. Verna says:

    Help!!! hi my 2 point fingernails and my 2 thumbs have brown ridges and I don’t feel any stranged things what it mean.

    1. Steve says:

      Verna, I glad the article has help you think about your current situation but please understand that you should consult your physician about the matter as only they know your complete medical history and only they can offer you a comprehensive plan, based on your current sign and symptoms.


  24. samina Lubna says:

    Thank you for sharing the important information.

  25. Claudia says:

    Vicks salve will help with stubborn toenail fungus, my mom has a Vietnamese podiatrist…and he suggested the vicks. Amazing difference, and MUCH less expensive than the current meds. It works.

    1. Mary says:

      Claudia, how much and how often would I need to apply Vicks for stubborn toenail fungas?

  26. Christy says:

    What about pain in the nails and toenails?

  27. Patti lane says:

    I got a fungus on my fingernails 3 years ago from rack nails. I was treated with pills for 3 months. And a year later again. My nails are thin and split and my skin is growing over my fingers. I have to sand.my nails everyday what can I do? I have been taking biotin. For 4 months.

  28. Steve HBI-Staff says:

    Patti, As Dr Thompson, indicated in his book, bones are made of mineral plural much the same as our hair nails and skin, they require multiple nutrients in a balanced state to grow and stay in a healthy way, for a better perspective I highly suggest getting your free copy of his book…



  29. Florence Sdanowich says:

    Husband had an infection that finally healed after two months but now it is an ulcer. Blood flow under ulcer near tip of leg is not good. He is a double amputee after having blood clots in each leg. Doctor recommended removing infected part near base of stump and then using the oxygen machine to try to heal it. If the blood flow is not good it will not work. You must be in the oxygen machine for 90 minutes everyday for possibly months without a promise of healing(then Medicare would not pay for it and it is a very expensive procedure). Do you have any alternative suggestion than total amputation???

    1. Hi Florence,

      We cannot legally give specific, individual medical advice here. However, I would like to share a couple ideas for you to talk over with your doctor that have helped others.

      First, for any open infection, consider applying colloidal silver. This is a powerful natural antibiotic that our family uses regularly for infections. We also used it to heal major infected sores on the legs of a family friend who couldn’t beat repeated infections and was at risk of amputation from them until we started using this on his sores. Our family now makes our own colloidal silver at home using pure silver rods and a colloidal silver generator, but this is the brand we used to purchase on Amazon:

      Second, consider using cold pressed, cold processed castor oil packs with heat. Our same friend, after his infections cleared up with the colloidal silver still had major seepage (he’s also very overweight). Once his open wounds cleared up I understand from research the same process we used for that helps with ulcers. We soaked flannel material in the castor oil and placed them directly on his leg. Then we used plastic lined underpads (plastic on the outside) to cover those so the oil wouldn’t seep through and taped them so they would stay in place. He left the castor oil pack on overnight and already saw a major improvement in the first day. Within days his legs were cleared up – his nurse was shocked how quickly both the infections and his seepage cleared up completely.

      These are the exact castor oil, flannel pads and chux underpads we used for our friend:

      If there are no open sores, I also recommend using heat to help the absorption of the castor oil. While you can use a standard heating pad, considering the seriousness of the situation, I highly recommend you go with a far infrared heating pad. Not only will it aid in the absorption of the castor oil, far infrared heat penetrates far deeper (1.5 to 2 inches deep according to most scientific sources) and actually helps boost circulation which is important for delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues at risk and the carrying away of toxins (including dead cells and metabolic waste).

      Our family uses the Medium-sized far infrared heating pad from the Healthy Back Institute all the time. You can find the entire selection to find the best one that suits your needs on this page:

      Again, you cannot construe this as personal medical advice, please review this information with your doctor. However, as it has helped our family and friends, I hope you will find this information helpful for your husband, too!

      Best wishes,
      Steve Coombes
      Managing Editor – Live Pain Free

  30. Margaret Owens says:

    Thank you for the nail info, my thumb nail on my rt hand continues to split. I was told by a cosmotologist that I was putting my hands in water too much. But I see your list and just found out I have a goiter on my thyroid and this explains the nail issue. Thank you so much again

  31. Isolina Dominguez says:

    Dear beautiful Mr. Cannone, am 76 years old,,I’ve been reading your health Information. What an awesome blessing you are for the ones in need. Muuuuchaas gracias.

    1. Admin says:

      Hi Isolina,
      Thank you so much for your very kind words, we really do appreciate you taking the time.

      Our Very Best Wishes
      Admin(The Healthy Back Institute)

  32. ashley says:

    I had discolored nails. When I spoke to my doctor about it, they determined it was simply residue from my nail polish. So scary before I knew what it was.

  33. James E Hassinger says:

    I have splits and ridges in both thumb nails. I’ve taken iron supplements and have not noticed any relief.

    1. Steve HBI-Staff says:

      James, If have concern regarding your nails, please seek, proper medical attention.



  34. iain says:

    very interesting reading checked my own and my wife’s. Looking at her nails reads true suffering with polymyalgia rheumatica

    thanks IAIN

    1. Admin says:

      Hi Iain,
      Thank you so much for your feedback. We are glad to hear that you found the article interesting.

      Our Best Wishes to you and your wife
      Admin (The Healthy Back Institute)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.