We usually notice our hair, our skin, our weight gain ... but do we ever notice the changes in our fingernails? It wouldn't be wrong to say that our nails have the capability of reflecting the problems faced by our body internally. Take fingernail ridges for example. Their occurrence has become so common these days, that they usually go unnoticed. However, not noticing their underlying causes may prove to be grievous in the future.
Look at your fingernails carefully, do you see the raised, slightly bumpy lines? These are known as ridges. The presence of these lines is fairly common these days, and is mostly not a cause of concern. However, if the texture of your nails looks completely distorted, with evident lines and depressions on the surface, then it may be a cause of concern that needs to be checked by a specialist. These patterns only signify that our nails are unable to grow in their usual healthy manner due to an underlying problem.
There are two types of fingernail ridges that may occur. These are mentioned as follows.
➦ Vertical Ridges: Ridges which extend from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. These usually do not cause any health concern.
➦ Horizontal Ridges: These run from one side of the nail across the other side lengthwise, and they can be quite ugly. These ridges may be associated with severe illnesses.
What Causes Vertical Nail Ridges?
➦ Lack of Moisture: The ability of our nails to retain moisture, diminishes as we age. Therefore, if vertical nail ridges are evenly spaced out on the nail, then it is usually considered to be harmless, and is fairly common. Keeping your nails moisturized using petroleum jelly would help.
➦ Lack of Nutrition: Nutritional deficiencies may also lead to these ridges, especially lack of vitamin B in the body. It is advisable to consume a diet rich in vitamins, especially biotin. Swiss chard is an excellent source for it.
➦ Inability to Absorb Nutrients: Malabsorption occurs when our body, due to an underlying cause, is unable to absorb the nutrients consumed by us. When there is something amiss in the body's production of the keratin material, which forms the building blocks of nails, ridges may start forming.
What Causes Horizontal Nail Ridges?
➦ Beau's Lines: These are horizontal lines that run across the nail and look like dents. It may be a result of Raynaud's disease, diabetes, chemotherapy, or any other underlying illness.
➦ Muehrcke's Lines: These are white parallel lines that extend all across the nail. These may be a sign of low levels of protein in the blood due to malnutrition or problems related to the liver.
➦ Aldrich-Mees' Lines: These are discolored horizontal lines, also known as leukonychia striata. These may occur due to chemotherapy, renal failure, or metal poisoning.
➦ Other Causes: Other common causes include trauma caused to the nail matrix or injury to the nail bed and circulatory or respiratory problems.
Treatment lies in dealing with what is causing the condition. However, there are certain preventive measures that can be taken to have healthy nails. As mentioned earlier, malnutrition and malabsorption are the primary causes. So, inculcating a well-balanced diet, with all the required vitamins, proteins, calcium, and minerals can ensure a healthy growth of nails and a good health overall.
➦ Ensure that your diet consists of vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin B12, along with other nutritive sources of food. Gelatin is also known to do wonders in making the fingernails healthy and strong.
➦ In order to make up for the lack of moisture in the body, drink plenty of water to keep your body well-hydrated. You can also apply hydrating solution for keeping your nails moist and strong. Before going to bed, massage your nails with lotions which contain jojoba and vitamin E, and cover them with gloves. This will keep the oils from drying up soon and help nails retain their moisture.
➦ If you have health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, ensure that you take necessary steps to keep the condition under control. Take the required medicines and alter your lifestyle habits as per the doctor's advice.
Tips to Maintain Healthy Fingernails
As discussed earlier, we often tend to neglect our nails. This shows even in the way we handle them. Habits such as nail biting, regular use of chemicals such in nail polishes, acetone, and so on, expose our nails to a lot of irritants. Mentioned below are some simple, yet effective tips.
➦ Do not use your nails as tools to pull out, poke, or pick objects.
➦ Avoid nail biting or bothering the cuticle.
➦ Wear rubber gloves to keep your nails dry and clean, especially if your work involves a prolonged exposure to water.
➦ Keep your nails trimmed and file them regularly.
➦ Use a clipper to get rid of hangnails.
➦ Taking care of your skin helps to prevent skin disorders which are also known to be among the indirect causes of fingernail problems.
Healthy fingernails are indicators of good health and that's why they are attributed as the perfect barometer for overall health. Being aware of the common and uncommon causes of this condition will help you to diagnose any kind of abnormality in your system before it is too late. These changes must not be overlooked but should be immediately addressed, as there are several disorders in the body, which reveal themselves through fingernails.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informational purposes only, and should not be considered as a replacement for an expert medical advice.