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.
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.
Since the fingertip and nail bed area are prominent on your hand and very sensitive, an injury is quite obvious. Common symptoms include:
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.
The treatment you receive for a fingertip or nail bed injury depends on the type of injury you have sustained. 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.
If you require surgery, you’ll have several stitches in the affected areas and likely be placed in a splint to protect the fingertip, nail bed, bone or a combination of the three. 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.
Exercises early on after surgery are recommended in many instances to prevent hypersensitivity and to promote healing. 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.
Recovery time after a fingertip or nail bed injury is dependent upon the seriousness of the injury. 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.
NOVA Plastic Surgery provides Fingernail and Nail Bed in Northern Virginia areas. If you would like to receive a consultation on Fingertip & Nail Bed injuries in Northern Virginia, or if you have questions for our surgeon, please call the office at (703) 574-2588.