Fingertip & Nail Bed Injuries
What is the Nail Bed?
Located on the finger, the nail bed helps protect the fingertip and also aids in sensing pressure. All parts of the fingertip: the skin, bone, tendon, nail and nail bed all work together as a single unit. When the nail bed or fingertip is injured, it affects the function of the hand as well as causes extreme pain due to its sensitive nature.
How do Fingertips and Nail Beds Get Injured?
There are many ways that your fingertip or nail bed can be injured. The most common way is to get it caught, pinched or crushed in a door.
Even sharp cuts may injure both the fingertip and the nail bed. Other injuries occur during an accident, while playing sports and even on the job. Not all injuries to the fingertip and nail bed are serious; many heal on their own. However, if the injury is severe, prompt medical care is essential for a speedy recovery and full healing.
Symptoms of Fingertip and Nail Bed Injuries
Since the fingertip and nail bed area are prominent on your hand and very sensitive, an injury is quite obvious.
Common symptoms include:
- Blood collecting under the nail
- Extreme pain where the nail bed rests
- Missing nail bed
- Nail that is cracked through to the nail bed
All of these symptoms are an indication that you require medical care. While many nail bed injuries heal on their own, there are some that require a thorough evaluation, especially in instances when a finger has been slammed in a door or crushed. In this case, your doctor will likely order x-rays to determine if your finger is fractured. In serious cases, you may be put under local anesthesia so that the doctor can evaluate your injury thoroughly.
Treatment Options for Fingertip and Nail Bed Injuries
If it is a simple injury with blood trapped beneath the surface of the nail, your doctor may simply drill a small hole to release the blood and the built up pressure. If your injury is the result of a shallow laceration, a few stitches may be all you need. More serious injuries, however, require more in-depth treatment some of which involve skin grafts, nail bed replacements and treatments for bone fractures.
If your fingertip or nail bed injury requires surgery, there are a few approaches your doctor may take. Each injury is evaluated thoroughly. In the instance of a fracture, for example, your doctor may have to insert a metal pin to repair the bone, requiring you to undergo surgery. Some tendon injuries will require a large prolene suture which leads to a longer recovery time.
What to Expect After Surgery?
It is not uncommon to feel a loss of sensitivity, especially if you severed a nerve during the injury. In this instance, your nerves will have to reconnect or regrow which can take several months or even several years.
These exercises are prescribed by your doctor and help to eliminate the stiffness that often follows surgery. If the tendon is involved, it is best to wait until the splint and stitches are removed before doing any strenuous exercises. Your doctor will discuss any physical therapy needs with you in all cases.
What to Expect During Recovery?
If you only required a few stitches or had a small hole drilled in your nail, recovery time may take just a few days. If you lost your entire nail bed, or required surgery to fix a fractured bone, your recovery time will inevitably be a bit longer, taking 6 months up to a year.