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What do the black lines on our nails mean?

What do the black lines on our nails mean

Our fingernails can sometimes tell if we have an underlying medical condition, sometimes, it can be a reflection of something that we do not feel right away. Our fingernails and toenails can change in color(white, yellow, or black fingernail), texture, shape, and quality such as having ridges or being brittle and weak. So what do black lines mean on our nails if we have them? There are many possible answers to that, so in this article, we’ll be discussing what you might have if you see a black line on your fingernails.


  • Splinter Hemorrhage

Splinter hemorrhages appear as small black or dark red lines and are caused by damage to small blood vessels under the nail bed. They usually heal on their own within a few days but if a person bleeds from multiple lobes on several different nails, it may indicate an underlying disease.

  • Linear melanonychia

You might see black streaks on the nails, these are called linear melanonychia. They can vary in different shades, from black to dark brown and gray. These kinds of lines would usually appear on 2 to 5 nails.

  • Subungual melanoma

Over time, the black streaks of subungual melanoma can darken or widen. Sometimes, the nails are sore or bleed. Pigmentation may also extend to the area where the nail meets the cuticle. This is called Hutchinson’s sign and is often an indicator of melanoma. Streaks may appear on the fingernails or toenails. Most times, they cannot directly link the appearance of the stripes to an injury or disease.

  • Black lines or fragments from an injury or nail trauma can take days or months to heal.
  • If accompanied by pain and inflammation, use an ice pack or cold compress on the affected area.
  • In the worst cases, the doctor may surgically remove the affected toe or nail, or simply extract the abnormal tissue that causes the vertical black line.
  • Doctors can also give radiation therapy, which is a type of treatment given by X-rays.
  • In cases of “metastatic melanoma” where cancer has spread to other parts of the body, doctors may prescribe immunotherapy.
  • Treatment varies from patient to patient and depends on the stage of the melanoma. For advanced subungual melanoma, other treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy.

What are the possible causes of black lines on nails?

  • Nail trauma. Any damage to the nail, such as a finger getting stuck between objects
  • Hereditary.
  • If the blood vessel under the nail ruptures from an injury.
  • Increased production of melanin by melanocytes.
  • Low levels of vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin B12, or keratin(vitamin deficiency).
  • During pregnancy due to hormonal changes.
  • Endocarditis: This is a disease in which infection develops in the inner chambers or valves of the heart. Around 15% of people with endocarditis have vertical black lines on their nails.
  • Long medical history.
  • Fungal infection, usually with darker, non-vertical streaks with yellow or white lines.
  • Psoriasis
  • Immunocompromised people(such as organ recipients or HIV-infected people).
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