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What Causes Dents in Fingernails and How Do I Get Rid of Them?

Do you have dents or ridges in your fingernails? Maybe you first noticed them while you were painting your nails and the polish didn’t go on smoothly. Or perhaps you rub your nails when you’re nervous and noticed these dents in the nails during a particularly stressful week at work. Whatever the case may be, one thing’s for sure: Right now, you’re asking yourself, “Why do I have dents in my nails?” Your nails can reveal a lot about your health — including whether you’re at risk for other diseases. Keep reading to find out what causes dents in fingernails and how you can get rid of them.

What Causes Ridges and Dents in Fingernails?

Dents in fingernails can be quite alarming the first time you discover them, especially if you have no idea why they’re there. Horizontal dents in fingernails or toenails specifically are likely Beau’s lines. Carol Thelen, CRNP, tells FIRST that these dents on nails could signal a zinc deficiency. Additionally, Beau’s lines are associated with “uncontrolled diabetes and peripheral vascular disease, as well as illnesses associated with a high fever, such as scarlet fever, measles, mumps and pneumonia,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

Before you start freaking out, dents in thumbnails and toenails may also be caused by trauma rather than some underlying condition. “[Beau’s lines] develop when nail plate growth, which begins in the nail matrix (located under the cuticle), is temporarily disrupted,” Celeste Robb-Nicholson, MD, wrote for Harvard Women’s Health Watch. “This can occur with direct injury to the nail matrix, an inflammatory condition such as psoriasis, infection around the nail plate, repetitive picking at the nails or cuticles, or even a manicure. Systemic causes include nutritional deficiencies, illnesses accompanied by high fever, metabolic conditions, certain drugs (especially chemotherapy agents), and diminished blood flow to the fingers (from Raynaud’s phenomenon, for example).” (Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition where areas of the body feel cold and numb and change color in response to stress or cold temperatures.)

What Do Beau’s Lines Look Like?

Do Beau’s lines go away?

The good news about Beau’s lines is that they’ll eventually go away. If they’re the result of one-time trauma, the nail will eventually grow out and the lines will disappear. Nails grow at roughly three millimeters per month, so it may take a few weeks or even months before you notice your Beau’s lines have vanished completely. Should the dents be the result of some kind of mineral deficiency, you can most likely take a supplement to get your body’s levels where they need to be. That said, always consult a doctor before taking any new supplements.

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