What are the causes of those vertical black lines on nails?

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Have you ever removed your nail polish, only to see a dark line on the nail running vertically down your finger? These black lines on fingernails can look like bruises or internal discoloration – not like you accidentally created an edgy nail art trend. Since your nails are a reflection of your overall health, it’s important to get anything unusual checked out by a medical professional first to determine if it’s just a splinter hemorrhage, melanonychia, or something more serious like melanoma.

To help us understand what those black lines on your nails are and how to treat them, we turned to celebrity manicurist Hannah Lee. Keep reading for everything you need to know.

Common causes of black lines on nails

  • Splinter hemorrhage (nail trauma)
  • Fungal infection
  • Melanonychia
  • Melanoma

Black lines on nails from a splinter hemorrhage

“A narrow black line under your nail could be a splinter hemorrhage,” Lee tells POPSUGAR. According to Healthline, a splinter hemorrhage is a “narrow black line that has formed vertically under your nail.” It may appear black or reddish-brown in color, does not change its appearance when you apply pressure to the nail, and appears in one or more places under your nail. (Note: Thicker lines that create a horizontal stripe on the nail are called Beau’s lines, which are often symptoms of a more serious condition.)

There are a few different things that can cause splinter hemorrhages under the nails. “It is [typically] caused by damaged blood vessels under your nail,” says Lee.” Black lines can be the result of a variety of health conditions, but a common reason is due to trauma. Another common reason these can appear is due to poor nutrition or a fungal infection.”

Serious conditions that can cause a splinter hemorrhage include bacterial endocarditis, vasculitis, systemic diseases, diabetes, Raynaud’s disease, and cholesterol. Lee emphasizes the importance of seeing a professional if you think this may be the underlying cause: “It is always recommended to see your doctor to confirm why these lines are appearing. From there, it’s best to get a . plan to discuss what you might be missing or need to do to treat the lines properly under the guidance of a medical professional.”

How to treat black lines on nails

There is no real treatment for splinter hemorrhages other than time. “Usually you just wait for the black lines to grow out, as long as it’s not caused by something more serious, like melanoma,” says Lee. (Again, you’ll want to check with your doctor to be sure.)

If the black lines are an eyesore and you’d rather not look at them every day, painting your nails can help cover them until they disappear. According to Nails Magazine, a top nail industry magazine, nail technicians are advised to use a non-tinted gel or acrylic on nails with splinter bleeding to “make sure the bleeding moves to the free edge.” (It’s also fine to use colored nail polish, which can be easily removed at home if you want to check the health of your nails.)

“It’s totally fine to paint over it if it’s just caused by something like trauma,” says Lee. “If it turns out to be something like a fungal infection or melanoma, it’s best to get that treated immediately before applying nail polish again.”

Usually thin, vertical black lines under your nails are not a cause for concern. But if you’ve had them for a while or you just want to make sure they’re not a sign of something more serious, getting checked out by a medical professional is your best bet.

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