Beau's lines are nail issues that can be easily confused with nail ridges. Beau's lines can be found on all nails, of the fingers, thumbs or toes, and look like depressions with a horizontal or oblique pattern. The name of the condition comes from the person who discovered it, French doctor Joseph Honoré Simon Beau, who described it for the first time in 1846. Beau's lines are not actually a disease, but the effect of many types of conditions that can have an impact on nail growth. Most of these diseases are severe and affect the entire body. Examples include liver diseases, poor nutrition, diabetes, other types of metabolic issues, heart attacks and numerous types of strong infections like pneumonia, mumps or measles.
Beau's lines can also be an effect of malnutrition and aggressive treatment like chemotherapy. These depressions can also be caused by direct injury to the nails. Beau's lines start from the nail bed and grow slowly, which makes it easy to calculate the approximate duration of the disease.
Severe diseases that affect the entire body have various external signs and Beau's lines are one of them. Numerous internal or external conditions hurt nails as a side effect, which can be a good indicator of systemic issues.
Beau's lines are actually started when the body can't produce nail cells for at least one day. As soon as the root of the problem is gone, the body will restart the cells production and normal nail growth resumes. The nail will then continue its slow expansion pattern but Beau's lines persist as an indicator of a nail development problem.
In most cases, these depressions are the result of very strong infections associated with high fever. However, any systemic problem can affect the nails and there are many possible causes. Chemotherapy for example is not a disease but these strong chemicals impact the entire body.
Any kind of injury to the nail area can also cause Beau's lines. A common possible reason is rubbing or picking the nail or the skin behind it as a reflex gesture. This affects the base of the nail and deforms it temporarily or sometimes even permanently. The nail can also be attacked by various pathogens like bacteria, yeast or fungus, which affect its shape and texture. Any disease that changes the amount of oxygen found in blood also impacts the nails, as well as poisoning with various toxic compounds such as arsenic.
Beau's lines can develop on the fingers of both hands and feet. They look like depressed areas across the nail, usually from side to side. If only some nails are affected, the cause might be a trauma. However, deformity of most of the nails signals a severe systemic issue or the effect of strong medication. In some cases, only the nails on the thumb and big toe are affected.
The progressive growth of nails makes it possible to use Beau's lines to estimate the timing of a disease. This is done by measuring the distance between the cuticle, where the nail emerges, and the edge of the Beau's line. It is known that nails on the fingers grow about 0.1 mm daily, while toenails expand a lot slowly, with 0.03 mm every day. This makes it quite easy not only to estimate the moment when a disease started or ended, but also its total duration. Cyclical diseases cause multiple grooves to appear on the nail, with areas of normal growth between them.
Beau's lines are not a separate disease so they can't be treated specifically. However, there are some ways to treat the symptoms and reduce their effects. It can be very helpful for example to protect the nails with an anti-fungal product daily.
Several other simple remedies for Beau's lines are also available. Protecting and moisturizing your nails is always a good idea, for example by soaking your hands in oil for 15 minutes every day. The best time to cut brittle and damaged nails is right after a bath. Before going to sleep, cover your nails with cotton gloves and use a moisturizer to protect them, as well as the cuticles. One of the most effective products you can use for this purpose is Elma 09. Avoid nail polish removers based on acetone, which is a chemical that dries nails and affects their structure. It is also a bad idea to use nail polish removers more than twice per month.
Beau's lines can sometimes cause nails to crack and split as they grow. This can be avoided using special nail glue or clear polish but several nail hardeners are also available. Keeping your nails cut short is another simple way around this issue. Do not use cosmetics that include chemicals known to irritate the skin, such as toluene, sulfonamide or formaldehyde. Since Beau's lines are a sign of a more serious disease, contact your doctor as soon as you notice them.