Fingernail Avulsion

Fingernail avulsion is common and can be caused by injury, ingrown nails or infection under the nail.

Overview

Fingernails are fragile and may fall off when you hit your hand on an object or have an infection. Medics commonly refer to it as an avulsion, and it may be characterized by loss of the entire nail or part of it. The condition is usually caused by trauma that detaches the nail plate from its bed. If you lose a nail, there is no need to panic because it takes approximately three to four months to grow back. Toenails take much longer than this and have been found to adequately grow back after almost a year on average. When the nail is removed, the bed left uncovered is extremely sensitive and requires careful treatment to hasten recovery. It is essential to seek expert advice and treatment after a fingernail avulsion. Nonetheless, you are advised to do some first aid procedures before you set off to see a doctor.

What should you do before seeing a doctor?

These procedures will help you cope for some time until you reach a doctor or hospital.

Stop the bleeding

In most cases of avulsion, there is excessive bleeding. Loss of blood may be more dangerous than the injury itself. If your fingernails peel off and blood starts to ooze out, make sure that you get a clean wet cloth and use it to apply moderate pressure on you bleeding finger. The blood may continue to come out but will stop after some time.

Clean the wound

Dirty wounds usually tend to accumulate germs and develop inflammation or infection. To keep the germs away from the wound, you must clean it properly and apply methylated spirit or wipe it with a cloth soaked in alcohol. Salt also works well in preventing infection. The affected finger might be sore but cleaning it with clean, warm water will help hasten the recovery. After cleaning the finger ensure that you have it dried up before covering it up with a non-adhesive bandage. An adhesive bandage may stick to your wound and cause complications and pain during removal. It may also peel off the outer layer of your wound leading to fresh bleeding.

Manage the pain

A torn fingernail may result in unbearable pain. Purchasing over-the-counter pain medication is crucial. These medicines will help you manage the pain as you seek medical attention. Many dermatologists recommend ibuprofen and acetaminophen for fast pain relief. Acetaminophen helps reduce pain and fever. It can be found in many pharmacies with or without a prescription. Ibuprofen is an NSAID that will help with the pain as well as the swelling. Care should be taken because they usually cause stomach upsets when abused or overdosed. It has also been found to cause duodenal bleeding and kidney complications.

Ice the finger

Fingers affected by avulsion tend to swell after some time. Put the finger in ice or hold a bag of ice on the affected area. Ice will not only prevent excessive swelling but also help relieve the pain.

Elevate your finger at all times

When at home, make sure that your hand is raised up or placed in a position higher than the level of your heart. This is standard procedure that medics recommend to reduce the pain and swelling.

Mind your clothing

When you have a sore of an avulsed finger, it is important to keep the affected area protected and safe from further injury. You might have to avoid wearing gloves until the nail bed has hardened and the nail has started to grow back. Disturbing the area or doing tedious work may cause the finger to take longer than usual to heal.

These procedures will help alleviate the pain and swelling for the first few days. These symptoms will, however, disappear after one week.

When should you see a doctor?

It is advisable to see a doctor immediately when you have an avulsion on your finger. If your wound is not severe, you can manage it at home as you seek to make an appointment with your doctor. Nonetheless, some cases require immediate treatment.

Deep wound

The urgency of treatment depends on the level of injury. Some avulsions just affect the nail bed alone, but some can leave behind a deep wound or cut. If your wound is more than four centimeters deep, then you need to see a doctor to have it stitched back together. If you ignore the cut, you may develop an infection that may have pus lodged in it. This can become very painful and will cause the wounds to extend and become painful.

Discoloration

The affected area may start to discolor. The discoloration usually indicates a more serious injury that requires immediate medical attention. If a section of the nail has been torn and the remaining part begins to turn red or black, it’s high time that you pay your doctor a visit. Discoloration is usually caused by the formation of a blood clot in the affected area and a surgical procedure will help remove it.

The nail is completely torn off

Partial avulsion may require less intensive care and treatment. Severe avulsion is when you have the entire nail peeled off from the nail bed. In case of severe avulsion, visit your doctor as soon as possible.

The wound is unbearably painful

Infected fingers will start to drain pus. The result of such an infection is unbearable pain that does not go away easily or gets worse as time passes by. Once you notice that the affected finger is overly painful, consult your doctor as soon as possible.

Medical nail avulsion

In some instances, your doctor may perform a medical nail avulsion. This procedure is necessary when your finger is infected and displays some harmful symptoms.

Fungal infection

One of the most common reasons why a doctor might need to perform a medical avulsion is a fungal infection under the nail. If left untreated for long the infection may spread and affect a larger area.

Onychogryphosis

The second reason why many doctors choose to perform the avulsion is onychogryphosis. This is a rare condition that is characterized by a hardened or thickened nail. The primary cause of the condition is not known, but it manifests itself in older people.

Onychocryptosis

This condition is rare and is commonly characterized by ingrown fingernails. It mainly affects the toes. However, your fingers may develop the problem too. The condition causes your finger or toe to become red and swollen. After some time, pus can start draining from the affected area. See a physician immediately if you notice that your nail is growing under the skin, in most cases, the doctor will perform a medical nail avulsion to prevent further harm or injury.

Be it accidental or medical, having avulsion can be very stressful. Take great care when handling sharp objects and keep your nails short to minimize the chances of having an accidental avulsion. Consult a doctor on the correct medication for your pain as you manage the injured finger carefully; avoid doing heavy manual work until it heals. The area affected should also be kept dry and held above heart level to minimize swelling and pain.

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