Not everybody is lucky enough to escape from slamming their finger against car or house doors, hitting your finger against a heavy object (for instance, a hammer), hit your toe against a hard object or surface (a rock, for instance) or dropping a heavy object such as a carrom board on your toe! Such traumatic incidents result in a condition called as subungual hematoma wherein the blood and fluid collect underneath the fingernail and toenail. Commonly called as smashed finger, this injury can result in breakage of small blood vessels underneath the nail that can cause blood leakage underneath the nail bed and cause discoloration. The nail can get crushed and cause intense pain due to the blood collecting under the nail.
Throbbing pain is the main symptom of a smashed fingernail due to blood collecting under the nail bed but there are a few other symptoms that can also commonly occur. Those include:
Immediately after a severe blow to your finger or toe, it is better to meet your physician and seek medical attention. This will also help you find out if you have a broken bone or some serious damage to the nail bed. An X-ray is taken to diagnose fracture although common signs of a broken finger include dislocation around the joint, deformity and sharp pain at the sight of the injury. While most smashed nails heal on their own and there is no need to seek medical attention, there are quite a few situations in which you must seek a doctor’s advice:
Immediate home remedies are the best first-aid treatments for a smashed finger. These include rest, ice, elevating the injured finger so that blood flow to the injured site is slowed and inflammation is restricted and use over the counter medications or pain-relieving creams. Never place ice directly on the affected area as it will only elevate the pain. Always wrap the ice cube with a cloth before placing it on the nail or it is even better to place your finger on top of the ice pack. A day or two after such treatments, the pain should improve even though a bruise might appear and cause numbness, throbbing or aching. A bruise is only a sign that the body is repairing the damage.
Rarely, when the injury does not heal with home remedies and the pain is unbearable, the doctor might perform decompression which drains the blood underneath the nail and relieves pressure.
Once the pain and swelling start decreasing, it is needed that you move and stretch your injured finger slowly and gently. Massage the injured site and the surrounding area gently to enable blood flow to the site. Generally, a smashed finger becomes better in a couple of days. Only in complicated scenarios will the finger take weeks or months to heal completely. In most cases the nail remains intact and it is only the bruised nail portion that remains likewise for months together until the nail grows out. But, when the nail is completely removed, it can take anywhere between 12 and 15 months if it is a toenail or grow within 6 months if it is a finger nail. The nail matrix consists of the tissue under the nail that helps in nail growth. Any damage done to this matrix during injury may cause the nail to grow incorrectly or never grow at all. The entire anatomy of the nail and how the growth takes place is explained in a step-by-step manner at www.firsteatright.com and people interested can have a look at it.
During treatment and recovery, it is suggested that the affected individual does not strain his/her affected finger/toe by participating in sports activities. Never try to remove the injured nail on your own or even try to support it with a clamp of some sort.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.