Home > Blog > Anti-Aging > Vertical Lines On Fingernails: What Your Body Is Telling You

Vertical Lines On Fingernails: What Your Body Is Telling You

While most of us associate vertical lines on fingernails with the aging process, this is not always the cause. In many of us, these lines tend to develop out of the blue and may stem from an underlying health condition often associated with adrenal fatigue. These different health conditions may affect your nail or nail bed in different ways, including the shape of ridges in your nails. Vertical lines on fingernails are the most common nail change and, in most people, considered harmless. Horizontal lines, however, could point towards much more harmful issues. But whatever type of lines you have, knowing the cause could help with prevention or addressing the issue.

What Do Vertical Lines On Fingernails Mean?

You may find either vertical or horizontal lines on your fingernails. They may result from different health issues that need to be addressed.

Vertical Lines On Fingernails

An image of vertical lines on a thumbnailThe protein keratin makes up a large part of your nails, skin, and hair. But when your body is low in this protein, or zinc, calcium, and vitamin A, your nails tend to show this in the form of ridges occurring on your nails. If young or relatively young with vertical lines on fingernails, you could explore whether you have any of these deficiencies.

In older adults, vertical lines on fingernails develop due to a slowing down of cell production that should take the place of dead cells on the surface. This is a normal process that most of us encounter as we age. But no matter how old we are when this starts happening, if you experience additional symptoms like color or texture changes as well, it may point towards an underlying medical issue. Besides the vertical lines forming due to the aging process, nails could also become either thicker or thinner, begin to split, or you find they break easily.

Trachyonychia, a condition also referred to as 20-nail dystrophy and common in children with psoriasis, eczema, or other skin conditions, presents as vertical lines on fingernails often with a rough, pitted nails surface. You could also see a change in nail color ranging from brown to a graying white. Nails tend to become brittle.

Other health issues causing vertical lines on fingernails accompanied include iron deficiency anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, and peripheral vascular disease. The latter health issue could result in a heart attack.

But you do not only find vertical lines on fingernails that could result from underlying health issues. You also find horizontal lines on fingernails called Beau’s lines.

Beau’s Lines On Fingernails

Whereas vertical lines on fingernails are lines stretching from the tip of your nail to the back of the nail, Beau’s lines run horizontally from side to side. These lines may indicate you suffer from diabetes, acute kidney issues, or thyroid disease. Some people who have undergone chemotherapy also experience this nail issue.

Other Causes Of Lines On Fingernails

Vertical lines on fingernails or even Beau’s lines may also suffer from digestive issues, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or an injury to a fingernail bed.

Vertical Lines On Fingernails And Adrenal Fatigue

The various health issues mentioned so far are all indicative of one underlying health issue: adrenal fatigue. In some cases, they contribute towards this health issue, and in many instances, they are a symptom. But whether a cause or a symptom, these health issues result from some form of stress on your body and your body’s response to the stress. As mentioned, many different health issues show horizontal lines on fingernails as one of their symptoms.

Adrenal fatigue usually results from prolonged stress that sees your body’s NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response continuously function. This sees a constant demand for higher cortisol production accompanied by the persistent change or reduction in certain body functions. In the long term, the change or reduction in certain body functions together with the high cortisol supply sees not only your adrenal glands put under greater stress that may result in adrenal fatigue but other body systems and their functions compromised. This results in various possible health issues that are symptoms of compromised adrenal function. You may end up with some of the health conditions mentioned, as well as vertical lines on fingernails that are symptomatic of different specific health issues.

Diagnosing Your Condition

An image of a woman talking with her doctorEven if vertical lines on fingernails develop when you are older, talking to your healthcare practitioner may still be a good idea. This is a precautionary measure to find out whether something else may be at play.

Sudden nail changes tend to be more alarming and you should seek the advice of a medical healthcare professional as soon as you notice them. You should also seek immediate medical attention if you injured your nail when it is crushed, you experience bleeding under the nail, it was torn off, or you have either a clean or ragged cut going through your nail. These may all cause an infection that could have some bad consequences.

Furthermore, for other possible causes of vertical lines on fingernails, your healthcare practitioner may ask you to undergo urine and/or blood tests. This is especially the case if they suspect you may have a nutritional deficiency or suffer from diabetes or kidney issues.

If your healthcare practitioner suspects they result from a skin condition, he may refer you to a dermatologist. The latter would take fingernail clippings and have them analyzed to find out whether you have an infection.

Addressing Vertical Lines On Fingernails

If your lines result from an underlying health issue, you may see an improvement in your nails when you treat the health issue. When a skin condition causes vertical lines on fingernails, topical eczema ointments and moisturizers may reduce these lines. And when your labs show you have mineral or vitamin deficiencies, taking supplements of making dietary changes may see the issue disappear.

Whatever the cause of the lines on your fingernails, you can also adjust things cosmetically by using an emery board to smooth the ridges. Do remember, though, that when your nails develop these lines, they may also be dry and brittle. So, do take care not to press too hard when filing them.

Besides addressing your underlying health issues and filing your nails to get rid of ridges, you could also supply some adrenal support.

Providing Adrenal Support To Address The Problem

Because many of the underlying health issues resulting in vertical lines on fingernails are of themselves symptoms of adrenal issues, providing adrenal support is a holistic way of addressing your nail issue. There is much you can do to support adrenal health, but it starts with making positive lifestyle and dietary changes.

Lifestyle changes include doing some gentle exercise daily, getting rid of or finding ways of controlling stress, and making ‘me’ time to get your thoughts in order and do something that makes you happy.

With regards to dietary changes, it would include cutting out sugary foods and drinks as well as processed and GMO foods. Instead, you would swap to a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, organic fresh fruit and vegetables, and lean protein sources. When anemia causes your problem, consider eating organ meats and spinach to help boost your iron deficiency. You could also explore the use of various natural supplements. When doing so, however, please consult your healthcare practitioner who will advise you of the benefits of the supplement, whether it is suitable for use depending on your stage of adrenal fatigue, and dose requirements.

While these dietary and lifestyle changes may not offer any cure, they do offer your body some much-needed support in addressing your adrenal health and thus, by association, support for the conditions your body may deal with.


If vertical lines on fingernails are an issue in your life, here are a few things you can do to help alleviate the situation.

  1. An image of a doctor smiling and holding an appleSee your healthcare professional to find out the cause.
  2. Consider making lifestyle and dietary changes to support adrenal health and supply your body with the nutrients it needs to fight the issue.
  3. Moisturize regularly and gently file off the ridges with an emery board.

Do remember that your healthcare professional may ask you to undergo urine and blood tests to find the cause of these lines. Also, if considering supplements, please do so with the guidance of your healthcare practitioner who will assess the benefits of the supplement and recommend the correct dose.

If you would like to know more about or need assistance with vertical lines on fingernails, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1 (626) 571-1234 where we will privately discuss your symptoms and various options. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Vertical lines on nails may be age-related or result from an underlying condition. In many cases, the underlying condition may relate to adrenal fatigue. So, while having vertical lines does not necessarily mean you have adrenal fatigue, they may indicate that your adrenal glands need medical attention.

Are You Ready to Start Your
Adrenal Fatigue Recovery Journey?