Types of Toenail Trauma


While most people don’t put a lot of thought into protecting their toe nail beds, toenails are actually at risk for a great deal of trauma. This nail trauma can be very painful and if you aren’t careful with your toenails, they can become permanently damaged or even fall off. Here’s how to handle and treat toenail trauma when it happens.

Types of Toenail Trauma

One of the first and most important things to understand about toenail injuries is that there are several ways in which this type of trauma can happen. These are some of the most common types of toenail traumas that can lead to serious injury to the nail or the nail bed.

  • Stubbed Toe- While most people have experienced stubbed toes in the past without major issues, if you seriously stub your toe then it can lead to a cracked or bruised toenail.
  • Runner’s Toe- Serious runners, such as marathon runners can seriously injure their toe from all of the friction and activity involved in long-term running. This is a serious injury and one that can sideline some runners for a long time.
  • Lacerations- These are small cuts around or under the toenail and are typically accompanied by bleeding.
  • Subungual Hematoma- This type of trauma comes from a heavy object falling on the toe. It can also come from serious friction. With this type of trauma, you may notice blood building up under the toe or bruising at the toenail.
  • Avulsion- This type of trauma can come from all types of accidents or injuries and happens when the nail is completely or partially torn off following trauma.
  • Ingrown Toenail- This is a very painful condition that happens when the toenail starts growing into the skin and can lead to constant pain along the side of the toe.
  • Fungal Nail Infection- This is a type of trauma that can happen in individuals who run or work out a great deal. It can lead to a foul smell, cracked or yellowing nails, pressure, swelling, pain, and the appearance of fungus under the nail.

All of these toenail traumas can come with serious pain and should be treated right away to manage the discomfort. No matter what type of trauma happens to your toenail, it is important to know when you should or shouldn’t seek medical attention to make sure a small toenail injury doesn’t turn into a larger problem.

When Should I Seek Medical Attention for a Toenail Injury?

Sometimes after a toenail injury, all you need is a little ice and some rest before the pain will subside, but there are some situations where you need to seek medical attention for the trauma. Most toenail traumas can be treated with a quick visit to an urgent care center.

Minor Trauma

Minor traumas are those that can be treated at home. There is no need to panic in these situations. Here’s how to tell if you are dealing with a minor trauma:

  • You can stop the bleeding within a few minutes.
  • The nail is not cut or torn and is still attached to the toe
  • The nail has a bruise that covers less than a quarter of your nail
  • The toe itself isn’t bent, misshapen or appear to be broken

In these situations, apply ice and use over-the-counter pain medications like Tylenol to keep the situation under control. If the pain persists so much that it impacts your everyday quality of life, or if your toenail eventually falls off, then you need to seek medical attention by visiting an urgent care center for further treatment and analysis.

When to Seek Medical Help

There are other situations where you can’t just treat the injury at home, and it is better if you seek professional medical attention. Here are a few signs that you may need to seek medical attention:

  • Blood under the toenail covers more than half of the nail area. In these situations, a doctor may need to drain the impacted area.  
  • Nail lacerations and avulsions. These lacerations may need to be stitched or the toenail with avulsions may need to be removed.
  • If there is an infection, or oozing from the toenail, you may need antibiotics.
  • Toenail fungal infections that are painful and can’t be treated may require oral medications or antifungal cream.

These situations can all be remedied with professional medical attention. Make sure to call an urgent care center right away with these types of injuries as failing to do so can lead to pain and further damage.

If My Toenail Falls Off, Will The New One Look Deformed?

Sometimes, your toenail may fall off after serious trauma or following a condition such as runners toes. In some situations, the doctor may need to remove the nail to prevent further issue. So, what happens when the toenail falls off or has to be removed?

It will likely take a year or more to grow back, and while it may not necessarily look deformed, the new toenail may not look like it did before once it grows in. Typically, the area may be sensitive, but not necessarily painful during the growing-back process.

Ways To Prevent Toenail Trauma

Unfortunately, there isn’t one overall way to prevent toenail trauma from happening, as many times, toenail trauma comes from an accident. However, there are a few things that you can do in order to lessen the likelihood of experiencing toenail trauma.

  • Make sure that you are always wearing shoes that fit properly. The right shoe should be comfortable and doesn’t press up against your toes and has plenty of room in the toe box.
  • Wear close-toed shoes when you are at home, even if they are closed-toed slippers or house shoes. This can lessen the trauma if you stub your toe, and if you have diabetes, open-toed shoes aren’t recommended.
  • Keep your toenails properly trimmed and groomed. This will reduce the likelihood of friction injuries or extra pressure.
  • If you have particularly sweaty feet, try to do your best to keep it under control with powders and antiperspirant or by rotating your shoes throughout the day. Moisture in the shoes can increase your chances of developing toenail fungus. 
  • Consider silicone or gel toe caps if you’re prone to accidents, stubbing or similar toenail trauma. This is one of the best ways to prevent rubbing, irritation and toenail loss.

Little steps like this can go a long way in helping prevent toenail issues and traumas from forming in the first place.

How To Treat Different Toenail Traumas

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to prevent toenail issues in the first place, trauma happens. So, if you do happen to experience a toenail trauma, here’s how to treat the issue.

Ingrown Toenails

If you are experiencing an ingrown toenail, and notice the pain and discomfort of this type of trauma, here’s how to treat this common issue:

  • Soak your feet in warm water with Epsom salts to soothe and soften the toenail area. This will also encourage the pus to drain if there’s infection and will help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Combat potential infection by applying antibiotic or antifungal creams to the area.
  • Alleviate painful swelling by taking over-the-counter pain medications.

With ingrown toenails, if the pain persists or impacts your overall quality of life, then you may want to see a doctor for additional help.

Toenail Fungus

Fungal infections can be more serious than they seem on the surface and come with thick or discolored nails (typically brown or yellow) as well as fragile nails that tend to crack easily.

The most common way to treat toenail fungal infections is with antifungal treatment. This often in pill form, taken by mouth. In some cases, your doctor might choose to remove the nail entirely or use a laser treatment to encourage healing.

Subungual Hematoma

If you are experiencing a Subungual Hematoma, then chances are you will quickly notice blood trapped under your toenail following a trauma or injury. In most situations, you can remedy this type of injury at home.

Here’s how to treat and handle this type of trauma when it happens, using the “RICE” method.

  • Rest. Get off your toe as much as possible and limit the use of that toe for the time being.
  • Ice. Icing the toe to reduce pain and swelling is an easy way to make sure that you’re limiting swelling and treating the pain right away.
  • Compression. This will reduce blood flow and limit pain to the toe. To apply compression, wrap the toe with a small bandage or wrap.
  • Elevation. The final step to reduce swelling with this type of trauma is elevation. Whenever possible, keep your toe elevated above your heart when lying down.

With tips like this in mind, you can make sure that you are protecting your toenails, treating toenail issues when they happen and making sure that you know how to treat traumas when they occur so your toenail can continue to stay as healthy and pain-free as possible.

While things like toenail fungus can slowly form over time, any serious toenail injury or trauma should be treated by a medical doctor. Visit your local Urgent Care facility for injuries, infections and lacerations so you can get back on your feet and back to feeling like yourself. 

Centers Urgent care it here for all your medical needs. Our experienced providers are ready to help. Find a location closest to you here

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