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All About Bruised Toenails

bruised toenail

Have you ever had a painful, toenail change colors on you after stubbing your toe or dropping something heavy on it? What about this pain and color change happening to your toenail after running, hiking, or even dancing? Chances are, you might have a bruised toenail. A bruised toenail, in the medical world, is called a subungual hematoma. If you would like to learn more about what causes them, how to spot the symptoms, and what you can do to treat bruised toenails, continue to scroll down.

All About Bruised Toenails

What Causes Bruised Toenails?

A bruised toenail usually happens when there's trauma or injury to the nail bed. This can happen in several ways including:

  • Stubbing your toe: Accidentally hitting your toe against something hard. This can cause enough force to bruise the nail bed.

  • Dropping something on your toe: Dropping something heavy on your toenail, like a book, a can, or a piece of furniture, can lead to a bruised toenail.

  • Shoes that are too small: Shoes that are too tight can put pressure on your toenails, leading to bruising over time.

  • Sports injuries: Activities like running, soccer, dancing, hiking, football, and basketball can increase the risk of a bruised toenail due to pressure on your nails, or toenail injury.

Symptoms of Bruised Toenails

bruised toenail

How do you know if you have a bruised toenail? Here are some common symptoms to look out for:

  • Color change: The toenail may turn purple, blue, or black due to blood pooling underneath it.

  • Pain: You might feel pain or tenderness on or around the bruised toenail, especially when the toenail is pushed on.

  • Swelling: The skin around the bruised toenail may become swollen due to the injury.

  • Trouble walking: Severe bruising or pain can make it uncomfortable to walk or put weight on the affected toe.

Treating Bruised Toenails

If you suspect you have a bruised toenail, here's what you can do to alleviate the discomfort and promote healing:

  • Rest and elevate: Give your toe some time to rest by not doing things that put pressure on the toe. Elevating your foot can help with any possible swelling.

  • Ice: Icing the bruised toenail can also help with pain and swelling. Wrap the ice pack in a towel and apply it to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time.

  • Pain medication: Over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help alleviate pain and discomfort.

  • Wear the right shoes: Definitely don't wear shoes that are too night or too small while your bruised toenail heals. Opt for shoes with roomy toe boxes instead.

When to See a Doctor About Your Bruised Toenail

bruised toenail
A bruised toenail with a new toenail growing behind it. This is roughly 4-6 months after the injury.

It is important to note that with a bruised toenail, the actual black, red, or purple part of your nail that experienced the bleeding can take very long to go away. This is because a bruise or hematoma is when blood pools or collects in an area. When your skin is bruised, it can take several weeks to go away, however, when your toenail experiences a bruise, this can turn into several months, even upwards of a year if the bruised toenail is your big toenail. This is also because when a bruised toenail happens, that bleeding actually stains the nail.

The nail majority of the time with bruised toenails will have to grow out completely in order for the color to go away. As long as the bruise over time is moving up your toenail, not getting larger, and the pain or swelling is getting better, then it is ok to manage a bruised toenail at home. In most cases, a bruised toenail will get better with home care.

However, there are instances where you should seek medical attention:

  1. Severe pain: If the pain is severe and does not improve with home treatment, it's best to see a doctor to rule out any other injuries like a broken toe, which in severe cases can be seen along with a bruised toenail.

  1. Signs of infection: If the bruised toenail is red, warmer than normal, or starts oozing pus, this could be a sign of infection.

  1. Changes in nail growth: If the bruised toenail starts to lift the toe or shows signs of growth that isn't normal, it's best to follow up with a doctor.

How to Lower Your Risk of a Bruised Toenail

bruised toenail

While sometimes, getting a bruised toenail is unavoidable, there are steps you can take to lower risk:

  • Wear the right shoes for your activity: When playing certain sports or doing other activities, wearing the appropriate shoes for that sport or activity can protect your toes, and therefore lower the risk of developing a bruised toenail.

  • Keep toenails at a good length: Keeping your toenails trimmed and short prevents your toenails from catching on objects, and lowers the risk of them banging into the front of your shoe, which then lowers your risk of developing a bruised toenail.

  • Pay attention to shoe fit: Make sure your shoes fit properly and have enough room for your toes to move comfortably. They should not be too tight or too narrow.

Key Takeaways

Bruised toenails are a stressful thing to experience, but with proper care and attention, they usually heal on their own without any long-term problems. Remember to rest, ice, and elevate your toe, and reach out to a foot doctor or podiatrist if you are having severe pain, swelling, or signs of infection. By following some prevention tips, you can possibly lower the risk of another bruised toenail in the future.

Schedule Your Appointment At Direct Podiatry Arizona Today

Are you in need of a foot doctor and are located in the Phoenix area? My name is Dr. Tarr, and I am the owner of Direct Podiatry Arizona in Tempe. To view my available appointment times, click here.

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