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What Do Dents in Fingernails Mean?

What Do Dents in Fingernails Mean?

Perfectly well-manicured, smooth, and strong nails add to our overall beauty. But, what if unwanted and unattractive dents ruin this beauty? What do dents in fingernails mean?
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
Nails are basically hardened skin cells. They contain keratin, which is found in nails as well as hair and are made by living cells in the fingers and toes. The cells have their roots in the matrix (the area under the cuticle, which is hidden and is shaped like a half-moon). Fingernails with dents or ridges can be a cause of embarrassment at times. They should not be ignored, as they may be an indication of underlying health problems. Unhealthy fingernails can provide a clue to various health issues. The causes may range from simple vitamin deficiency to major health problems, like respiratory problems, heart ailments, etc. There can be large or small dents. The reasons can be diet, iron deficiency, and even trauma to the nail. Minor ones can be caused due to everyday trauma like hitting the nails against something. These will heal as the nail grows out. Chewing the cuticles may have long-lasting effects, as it can cause damage and affect growth. Perfectly healthy nails are slightly raised in the middle and curve down at the tip.

Vital Information

When little dents start appearing in your fingernails, more often than not, it is caused due to an inflammatory skin condition called psoriasis. This condition appears as red, scale-like patches on the skin and can affect the skin cells in the nails as well, thus making them appear like little dents. But once the psoriasis is treated, the nails too gradually start coming to the normal form. It takes a few months for the nails to become completely healthy, as the nails grow about one millimeter a week. This condition is called pitting. They can also be caused by trauma to the nail bed. Habits like cuticle or/and nail-biting may also affect the healthy growth of nails. They can be caused due to heredity conditions as well.

Horizontal Dents

Horizontal dents run from one side of the nail to the other. Vertical ridges in fingernails are quite common and are not a sign of any health problem. This may happen due to aging. But horizontal dents may indicate an underlying health concern. They can appear due to a variety of reasons. Beau's lines are horizontal depressions in the fingernails that occur after a serious illness like diabetes or systematic infection. Cancer patients taking chemotherapy tend to get Beau's lines. Patients suffering from Raynaud's disease may get horizontal dents due to being exposed to cold temperatures. This happens because, when a person is extremely sick or has experienced stress for a long period of time, then the nails stop growing. An indentation occurs at that spot when it starts growing again. After several months when the nail grows out, these indentations (usually at the same spot on every nail) become visible. If small warts or cysts are formed at the base of the nail, they put pressure on the matrix of the nail affecting the growth of the new nails, causing a deep ridge on them. It may take a while to grow back healthy nails.

Many of us do not take nail health issues, such as ridges, discolored nails, and changes in the shape of the nails. But these can be early indications of undiagnosed medical conditions like circulatory problems, iron deficiency, and thyroid diseases as well. Proper nail care is also essential. So, the next time you notice dents in your fingernails, do not ignore it. It is always better if you listen to what your nails are trying to tell you!

Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.