Woman Holding Painful Toenail

When Should I Go to the ER for a Toenail Injury?

Picture this: it’s late at night, and you’re hungry, so you head to the kitchen for a midnight snack. While you’re shuffling through the house in the dark, you stub your toe into something hard. We all know how painful that can be! Once the throbbing dies down, you may find your toenail is black and blue with a crack down the middle.

Now the question is, what do you do—wrap up your toe and take care of it yourself, or visit your local emergency center? While minor cases can be treated at home, there are some instances when you should seek medical attention. In this blog, PrimeCare Emergency Center will discuss what toenail traumas look like, how to prevent them, and when you should visit an ER for treatment.

Toenail Trauma

Other than the unfortunate case of stubbing your toe, most toenail injuries stem from trauma. If you are an athlete or a hiker, you may experience a condition called runner’s toe, when your toenail turns black due to repeated strain on your foot. It is common for toenail trauma to lead to a subungual hematoma or an ingrown toenail.

Subungual Hematoma

Subungual hematomas are quite common and occur when blood vessels break open under the nail, causing blood to pool. You may experience this injury if you drop something on your toe, have poor-fitting shoes, or take part in physical activity that causes your toe to ram into your shoe. Not only is it painful, but it also doesn’t look pretty! Your toenail may be black, blue, or purple.

Ingrown Toenail

When the edge of your nail becomes jagged after an injury, it can turn into an ingrown toenail. This is when the nail grows into the sides of your nail bed and pierces your skin. If this painful condition is left untreated, it can lead to an infection. It is crucial to partially or fully remove the ingrown nail so it doesn’t get any worse.

How Can an Emergency Center Help?

The last thing you want is your toenail trauma to get worse and become infected. In rare situations, a toe injury that is left untreated could lead to toe amputation. The only time you should take care into your own hands is if you can stop the bleeding, the nail is still attached and not cut or torn, your toe isn’t deformed, and the bruise covers less than a quarter of your nail. For all other situations, you should visit an ER. Not only will they ensure the toe isn’t infected, but they can provide the necessary care to help the injury heal as quickly as possible.

If blood under your toenail covers more than half of the nail area, it needs to be drained to relieve pressure. This can be done relatively quickly and painlessly by making a small hole into the nail to allow the blood to flow out. If this procedure is done correctly by a professional, you can avoid developing infections. An emergency center can also help remove a damaged nail and provide the necessary care to keep the nail bed healthy as a new nail grows back in.

How Can I Prevent Toenail Trauma?

While every situation is different, and you may not be able to prevent specific injuries from occurring, there are a few things you can do to help prevent toenail trauma.

  • Purchase shoes that fit properly. The tighter your shoes are, the more prone your toes are to frequent rubbing or friction that can cause toenail trauma.
  • Keep your toenails trimmed. Taking care of your toenails will reduce the risk of them rubbing against your shoes, which can lead to an ingrown toenail.
  • Wear close-toed shoes. A protective barrier on your toes will make a world of difference if you drop something on them.
  • Use silicone or gel toe caps. If your daily activities are prone to toenail trauma, toe caps can prevent blisters, rubbing, and irritation.
  • Spray your feet with antiperspirant. Sweaty or moist feet can put you at a higher risk for an ingrown toenail.

Our medical experts are here to provide the care you need to recover quickly from any toenail injury. We’ve seen it all and know we can help you! Call us today at (682) 253-6655 or stop by our emergency center to see how we can help.