When your nails are injured

Have you ever had a finger smashed in a door? Or has someone big and heavy ever stepped on your toes? When things like that happen, they can hurt both you and your nails.

When a nail is injured, different things can happen:

  • Bruises might form underneath the nail that make it look black or purple. 
  • Reddish-brown lines might appear in the nail, which means the blood vessels – the little tubes that carry blood through your body – were damaged. 
  • White spots might be noticeable as the nail grows.

If you injure a nail:

  • Use a cold compress. Have your mom or dad make it for you. It sounds fancy, but it's just putting ice inside a cloth or wetting it with cold water and then placing the cloth on the nail to help the swelling go down. Don't put ice directly on the nail because it can damage the skin around the nail.
  • Keep the nail elevated or raised higher than your heart for a while. 
  • Consider seeing a doctor if the nail is black or purple or really hurts. It hurts because the bruise is caused by blood building up under the nail. The doctor can make a small hole in your nail to release the pressure.

In some cases, the nail gets hurt so badly it will fall off. It should grow back, but it can take a long time. 

If you have some of these problems and you don't remember injuring your nail, have your parents take you to a skin doctor (dermatologist). A skin doctor takes care of nails and can help you find out what is wrong and see if other things like chemicals, a disease or infection might have hurt your nail.

              Big toes next to each other with a bruise on the left one A bruised left toe.
                Nails with reddish-brown lines Nails with reddish-brown lines1.

                Nails with reddish-brown lines Nails with reddish-brown lines1.

                A nail with white spotsAn example of white spots on the nail plate2.

Next: Manicures and pedicures.

Photo references:
1Photos used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2007 Mar; 56(3):538-40. Copyright Elsevier (2007).

2Photo used with permission of Elsevier. Dermatology DDxDeck, Vol 1, Pg 154. Copyright Elsevier (2006).