Normal or Not?

Healthy nails are like any other part of your body, taking on their own, predetermined shape, which may not be the same as the shape of your neighbor's toenails or fingernails. There are normal variations in nail form and most of the time there's no need to worry. Even everyday fingernail problems, for instance, brittle, split, or pitted nails do not always indicate the presence of a condition or disease.

Most of the time, what you see has to do with the effects of the cleaning products you use, nail biting, your age, and even heredity. Still, changes in the nails can be a signal of an underlying health problem. In other words, if your nails change, it may be prudent to consult a doctor.

Lines and Ridges

Age brings with it all kinds of physical changes and our nails are not immune. You may see longitudinal lines appear in your nails as you get older which continue to become more numerous as you age. Some experts feel that the long, wavy lines on the nails may be due to poor absorption of certain vitamins and minerals or to anemia. If you see long lines, it's probably nothing, and most doctors do not believe they are a health concern. Still, it can't hurt to check your iron levels. Ask your physician if you should have a complete blood count.

White Lines

White lines that cross the nail bed are seen in many people but they can suggest the presence of kidney or liver disease, so do bring up the subject with your physician, if you should see such lines on your nails.


If the nail matrix becomes inflamed or irritated, the growth pattern of the nail is disturbed and a shallow, vertical trench is created. Cutting the cuticle back in a severe fashion or pushing it with too much force can cause such ridging of the fingernails.

Horizontal Lines or Ridges

Horizontal lines and ridges that have a corrugated appearance are an indication that some form of trauma has occurred to the body. This type of marking can result from many ailments or conditions, for instance: childbirth, trauma from surgery, drug reactions, difficult or painful menstruation, malnutrition, and high fever. What happens is that the nail takes a bit of a break and stops producing the substance known as keratin. After a time, keratin production resumes and a groove can be seen where the nail cells had taken a rest.

In general, if your fingernails change in color or develop horizontal waves, it's a good idea to see your doctor. These lines do tend to suggest an underlying health condition, for instance, malnutrition, lung disease, or a silent heart attack.