If you’re following the guidelines we as podiatrists tend to repeat, you’re already checking your feet regularly for any signs of changes, like discolored spots or tenderness or sores. So, what if you’re looking over your feet one day and notice a large dent across your toenail? Should you panic?

When this happens, it’s likely a Beau’s line. Beau’s lines are horizontal grooves in your toenail- not to be confused with vertical ridges that often appear as you get older. Instead, Beau’s lines are depressions that look like a dent across the width of your nail.

Beau’s lines can occur on both your toenails and fingernails. A Beau’s line, as described above, is a groove that runs across your nail; a person may have one or several on a nail. Beau’s lines are often caused by an injury or repeated trauma to the nail that interrupts the growth of the nail. Common causes include dropping something heavy on the nail, which in turn damages the nail bed. You can even get Beau’s lines from sustained time in the cold- sort of shock to the system that causes the nail bed to treat it like trauma. You likely won’t see the dent right away, which means it may come as a shock to you later on when it emerges. In cases where you can tie it back to a trauma, it usually doesn’t need medical attention- if it’s painful or if the skin underneath is dark, book an appointment with us so we can check it out.

Sometimes, however, Beau’s lines can be indicative of something more serious. Malnutrition, vitamin/mineral deficiency (example: zinc deficiency), diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, and more can cause it. In some cases, illnesses like pneumonia can cause it. If you’re undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, you may see them appear, corresponding to the treatments you have.

In general, people cite the eyes, skin, and nails as windows into our health. Toenails are a great example of this, and according to the American Academy of Dermatology, ʺNails often reflect our general state of health. Changes in the nail, such as discoloration or thickening, can signal health problems, including liver and kidney diseases, heart and lung conditions, anemia and diabetes.ʺ Never ignore a change to your nails, especially one as obvious as Beau’s lines. While it may be nothing serious, it’s better to have it checked by a podiatrist to confirm that you don’t have underlying symptoms associated with diabetes or peripheral vascular or nerve problems.

Have you ever had Beau’s lines on your toenails? Let us know! If you currently have them, call our office to schedule an examination with one of our skilled podiatrists who can confirm if it’s a Beau’s line and identify the underlying cause.