Every now and then, we may notice something different about our nails. Sometimes we’ll see some little white specks or some unusual ridges. Since most of the nails we see appear smooth and clear, it may be tempting to see some unnerving warning signs in these new decorations. After all, nails are famously good at warning us when something’s amiss with our bodies.
Fortunately, white spots on the nails are usually just a sign that you banged them on something. This is especially true if you aren’t seeing very many of them.
As for the lines or ridges? That question isn’t quite so easy to answer but we’re going to help you get to the bottom of it.
To find out what fingernail lines mean, we need to know which way they’re going.
Vertical lines tell you an altogether different story than horizontal ones.
If you’ve got vertical ridges, there’s nothing to worry about.
You don’t even have to worry if they get bigger or more of them show up.
That’s because this happens naturally as you age.
The ridges form as the nails gradually have a harder time retaining moisture. As one doctor put it, “they are like wrinkles in the nails.”
However, it’s worth checking out if there’s an oddly colored stripe.
Even this might be benign, but sometimes it’s a sign of skin cancer.
If the lines are horizontal, they may be a sign of something serious.
Among these possible lines are Beau’s lines. These are grooves that form when something interrupts growth underneath the cuticle.
Sometimes they’re caused by trauma but don’t assume that if you see them.
They’re also a possible sign of diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, zinc deficiency or even scarlet fever.
There are also a couple of reasons to see them more than once.
Sufferers of Reynaud’s disease can develop Beau’s lines after exposure to cold temperatures and they can also turn up after chemotherapy.
Beau’s lines are doubly serious in children of less than two-years-old.
At this age, they’re a sign of Kawasaki disease, which is a leading cause of heart disease in children.
If you’re seeing thick white lines going across the nail, those are Mees lines.
Most of the time, they’re a sign of poisoning by heavy metals like arsenic.
However, they can also signify a cancerous tumor.
In particular, Mees lines are a symptom of Hodgkins lymphoma.
In rarer cases, they can point to heart problems.
They’ve also shown up in cases of kidney failure.
Mees lines also have a source in common with Beau’s lines.
The white lines are known to emerge after chemotherapy.
Look carefully if you have white lines on your nails because there’s another type to watch for.
These are called Muehrcke lines and they can be hard to tell apart from Mees lines. The main differences are that they come in pairs more often and, unlike Mees lines, they fade a little bit when you press down on them.
Muehrcke lines are usually associated with blood disorders.
However, those aren’t the only medical issues to bring about Muehrcke lines.
They can also result from liver disease and even malnutrition.