“I noticed that my fingernails are getting ridges and look a little yellowed near the tips. I quit smoking years ago, so I’m concerned.”

Like wrinkles on your face, ridges and discoloration in fingernails are a normal sign of aging. One of my patients humorously refers to them as a “sign of maturity.”

Fingernail ridges (which run from cuticle to nail tip) can appear as early as one’s 30s but are most common after age 60.

Although fingernail ridges are usually on just one or two nails, they may eventually develop on all of your fingernails. Nails also become drier as you age and tend to split more easily.

In some people as they age, the lunula (the white half moon at the base of the fingernail) can even disappear.

Even though fingernails also can become yellowed or grayish over time, discoloration could indicate a fungal infection or even a health condition such as diabetes.

At your next checkup, be sure to show your doctor your fingernails so that he/she can examine them. You may need blood tests to check for diabetes or a scraping of the nail to determine whether you have a fungal infection. (For more information on fungal infections, click here.)

Nothing can reverse age-related changes in the fingernails. But your fingernails will look and feel better if you moisturize frequently with hand cream. Also, since removing and reapplying nail polish dries the nails, try to do this no more than once a week.

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