What is subungual hematoma?

Subungual Hematoma
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Subungual hematoma: Overview

A subungual hematoma is blood under a fingernail or toenail. It's caused by hitting the nail with an object such as a hammer. Or it can happen if you pinch it in a door or drawer. The hematoma can cause throbbing pain in the hurt finger or toe.

Your doctor may have relieved the pain by making a small hole in the nail. This lets the blood drain out. You may have had a shot to prevent a tetanus infection.

How can you care for a subungual hematoma?

If your doctor told you how to care for your wound, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:

  • Wash the wound with clean water 2 times a day. Keep it clean and dry the rest of the time. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
  • You may cover the wound with a nonstick bandage.

How to Drain Blood From Under a Nail

How to drain blood from under a nail

You may be able to relieve severe, throbbing pain by draining blood from under your nail. This procedure is not necessary and is not recommended if you are not having pain. This procedure is safe if done properly.

To remove blood from under a nail:

  • Straighten a paper clip, and heat the tip in a flame until it is red-hot.
  • Place the tip of the paper clip on the nail and let it melt through. There are no nerves in a nail, so putting a hot paper clip on a nail should not hurt.
  • Do not push or apply pressure on the paper clip. There are nerves in the skin under the nail. You could accidentally touch the skin under the nail if pressure is applied to the nail.
  • Go slowly, and reheat the clip as necessary. A thick nail may take several tries.
  • As soon as the hole is complete, blood will escape and the pain will be relieved.
  • Expect drainage of clear or slightly bloody fluid for 2 to 3 days.
  • Soak the finger in warm, soapy water for 10 minutes, 3 times a day for 2 to 3 days.

You may repeat the procedure using the same hole. The pain and pressure that is immediately relieved may build back up again in a few days.

If your pain does not go away after you have drained the blood from under your nail, you may have a more serious injury. Call your doctor for an appointment.

Be sure to watch for signs of infection until your nail has healed. Signs of infection may include:

  • Increased pain, swelling, redness, or warmth around the nail.
  • Red streaks extending from the nail.
  • Drainage of pus from the nail.
  • Fever.

Subungual hematoma: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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