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Preventing Fingernail Ridges

By Carolyn Williams ; Updated July 18, 2017

Fingernail ridges are small raised lines that may develop vertically or horizontally on the fingernails and toenails. Sometimes, they occur naturally, but they may also be the result of a nutritional deficiency. In addition, fingernail ridges are sometimes a symptom of a serious medical condition that should be evaluated by a medical professional. The first step in preventing fingernail ridges is to identify the underlying cause of this problem.

Fight Father Time

Sometimes, the nails develop vertical ridges as the body ages. This is a normal part of the aging process and is nothing to be alarmed about. If this is the cause of your fingernail ridges, you can’t prevent them, but you can minimize the appearance of vertical ridges by buffing them and also by using an opaque nail polish, which tends to play down the ridges. However, don’t use sheer polish, because it tends to highlight the appearance of fingernail ridges.

Combat Iron Deficiency

An insufficient amount of iron in the diet causes koilonychia, which results in abnormal fingernails that have raised ridges, are thin and curve inward. In this instance, you can combat your iron deficiency and your fingernail ridges by eating foods high in iron. Good sources of iron include chicken, turkey, beans, peas, dried lentils, fish, meats -- especially liver, peanut butter, soybeans and whole grain bread. In addition, you can take iron supplements to build up iron stores and prevent fingernail ridges.

Attack Iron Deficiency Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia is an extreme loss of iron. It may be caused by heavy or long menstrual periods or by excessive use of ibuprofen, aspirin or arthritis medicine. However, iron deficiency anemia may also be caused by medical conditions such as colon, stomach or esophageal cancer, peptic ulcer disease, Crohn’s disease or celiac disease. Iron deficiency anemia can also cause shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, weakness, upper belly pain, grumpiness and problems concentrating. If you are unsure of the cause of your iron deficiency anemia, consult your medical doctor to rule out a serious health problem.

Treat Lichen Planus

Lichen planus is an autoimmune disease that can affect the nails, scalp or skin. When it affects the nails, it causes fingernail ridges. While the exact cause of lichen planus has not been identified, the American Academy of Dermatology reports that an autoimmune disorder causes the immune system to treat the skin, nails and other infected parts as foreign objects, which causes the body to fight against itself. Lichen planus cannot be prevented, but treatment options for include corticosteroid in the form of shots, pills, creams and ointments.

Avoid Arsenic Poisoning

According to the National Institutes of Health, arsenic poisoning can cause fingernail ridges. Arsenic is a semi-metallic chemical in groundwater that occurs when rocks located underground release this substance into the water. Other sources of arsenic contamination include working in industries that produce glass, treat wood, or produce and use certain chemicals. In addition, some foods, such as poultry, meat and fish contain arsenic as a result of the antibiotics fed to these animals. Rice also contains high levels of arsenic. Fingernail ridges from arsenic poisoning can be prevented by testing household water, rainwater, and well water for arsenic, and using an arsenic removal system. Employees in susceptible industries should also be sure that they are following work procedures to limit exposure to arsenic.

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