Harvard Women's Health Watch

By the way, doctor: Does having ridged and split fingernails mean I'm unhealthy?

Q. I'm 63, and I've begun to notice a decline in the quality of my fingernails. They have numerous up-and-down ridges, and at the tips, they're always splitting. I've heard you can tell a lot about a person's health from the condition of her nails. What does this say about mine?

A. Some changes in nails can be a sign of an underlying health problem, but the lengthwise nail ridging you describe is usually not one. It's simply a common sign of normal aging. The growth of fingernails and toenails slows as we get older, and their appearance may change. Some nails become yellowed or dull and brittle, and some or all may develop tiny longitudinal ridges. Fingernails tend to become thinner and more fragile, while toenails usually become thicker and harder.

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