- People have reported many symptoms following a COVID-19 infection. The latest one identified is the appearance of lines and grooves in the fingernails, which people are calling “COVID nails.”
- The condition is also called “Beau’s lines,” and experts say the condition isn’t exclusively associated with COVID.
- It can occur after any viral infection, injury, or as a result of an underlying health condition.
A U.K. expert on COVID-19 recently made headlines after he cautioned that COVID-19 could leave marks behind on your nails.
“Do your nails look odd? COVID nails are increasingly being recognized as the nails recover after infection and the growth recovers leaving a clear line. Can occur without skin rashes and appears harmless,” Dr. Tim Spector, principal investigator of the PREDICT studies and the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app, recently posted to social media.
But this symptom isn't limited to people with COVID-19.
Appearing as grooves or lines in your nails, the condition, also called “Beau’s lines,” can develop in people who've experienced a viral infection.
Condition happens when nail growth interrupted
“Beau’s lines occur when there is an interruption in regular nail growth,” Dr. Michele S. Green, dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told Healthline.
Green explained that there are a number of reasons why Beau’s lines appear, including illness, injury, or exposure to certain environmental factors.
“Their appearance is not always indicative of a larger health concern,” she added.
Nail abnormalities can indicate underlying or systemic disease
A study published in American Family Physician provides a laundry list of medical issues that can change the appearance of your nails.
“The visual appearance of the fingernails and toenails may suggest an underlying systemic disease,” the study authors wrote.
According to researchers, changes in nail appearance that suggest underlying diseases include:
- clubbing of your nails, which might indicate a lung problem or inflammatory bowel disease
- spoon-shaped nails (koilonychia), which could indicate anemia or hemochromatosis (too much iron in the blood)
- separation of the nails from the nail bed, known as onycholysis, which could be a sign of overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
COVID-19 doesn’t always cause Beau’s lines
Asked if there any symptoms of COVID that may cause Beau’s lines, Green said that the condition might be associated with illnesses that cause high fevers.
“COVID can cause temperatures to spike, which can contribute to the formation of these nail ridges,” she said.
She added that this symptom could take a long time to appear and sometimes doesn’t occur at all.
“It may take several months after having had the illness for Beau’s lines to appear, and they may not appear at all despite having COVID,” said Green.
She emphasized that Beau’s lines aren't unique to COVID-19 and that any kind of systemic illness can cause a disruption in normal nail growth and result in the appearance of Beau’s lines.
“Diabetes, pneumonia, and zinc deficiency are just a few of the other conditions that can lead to the development of Beau’s lines,” she continued.
Can COVID nails be fixed?
Those lines and grooves on your nails can be an unwelcome reminder of previous illness. Is there anything that can be done about it?
Green says that you’ll need to be patient and let the nails grow out.
“There is little to do as far as treatment for the appearance of Beau’s lines,” she said. “The entire fingernail will grow and replace itself within 6 months, meaning that if the underlying cause of the Beau’s line or lines is treated, they’ll disappear on their own with time.”
However, she cautioned that if the lines and grooves don’t grow out or if more appear, it's best to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist.
The bottom line
People have reported many symptoms following a COVID-19 infection. The latest one identified is the appearance of lines and grooves in the nails, which people are calling “COVID nails.”
The condition is also called “Beau’s lines.” Experts say that the condition isn’t exclusively associated with COVID, but it can occur after any viral infection, injury, or as a result of an underlying health condition.
According to experts, there is no treatment for COVID nails, but the affected nails will grow out within a few months. However, if the condition doesn’t resolve or appears to worsen, you should schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional.