Nail Problems and Injuries - Topic Overview
Minor fingernail and toenail problems are common. At one time or
another, almost everyone has caught a nail on something, causing it to rip, or
has smashed a finger in a door, leaving blood under the nail. These kinds of
injuries can be quite painful but are usually not serious. You can often
relieve pain and prevent infection of minor nail problems at home.
Normally, fingernails grow about one-tenth of a millimeter each day.
Toenails grow at about one-half or one-third the rate of the fingernails. Aging
and diseases that decrease blood flow to the hands and feet may slow nail
Common nail changes include:
- Splitting, peeling, or brittle nails. These are
common problems that develop when your hands are frequently exposed to water,
strong soaps, and other chemicals. You may be able to prevent some of these
problems if you use lotion and avoid repeatedly putting your hands in
- Little white marks (leukonychia) often appear
after minor injuries. They may last for weeks or months and usually go away on
- It is common for a nail to turn black after an injury.
The black or purple-black color is caused by blood under the nail and will go
away as the injury heals.
- Black, brown, or purple discoloration
under a nail that has not been injured may be caused by
Changes in the shape or texture of nails, which may occur for a variety of reasons. Some nail changes, such
as the formation of ridges, are normal with aging. Thick, brittle, or dark
nails are more common in older adults who have poor
, which are often caused by improper
trimming, tight shoes, or heredity. Your nails may grow into the surrounding
skin, causing pain, swelling, and
infection. In rare cases, an
abscess may develop under a nail (subungual
Separation from the nail bed. Once your
nail separates from its nail bed, for whatever reason, it will not reattach.
Nails grow back slowly. It takes about 6 months for fingernails and up to 18
months for toenails to grow back attached to the nail bed.
- Infection and allergic reactions. These are common
problems caused by
Fungal nail infections
which can vary in appearance depending on the type of
fungus infecting the nail or the location of the
infection. It is not unusual for fungal nail infections to follow
athlete's foot infections. For more information, see
Fungal Nail Infections.
Nail problems can also be caused
injury to a nail.
, which may lead
to a minor infection next to your nails (paronychia),
causing the skin around the nails to become swollen and
Nail-biting, which can lead to
fingertips that are red and sore and cuticles that bleed. Nail-biting also
increases the chance of
bacterial infections around your nail beds and in your
- Side effects of medicines, such as chemotherapy and
- Diseases of the skin, such as
- Skin growths, such as
- Other diseases such as
peripheral arterial disease, and
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you
should see a doctor.