Injury Fact Sheet: Nail Problems

By on November 13, 2012

For dancers, the toenails are a critical but often neglected part of the foot that can experience a number of problems.  To maintain good toenails, dancers should avoid wearing nailpolish and keep them trimmed straight across.  Nail health can also be a window into the body and indicate potential health problems associated with vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition.

Ingrown toenails:

Deformed or improperly cut toenails can grow into the surrounding skin causing an ingrown nail.  They can also occur if the skin around the nail grows fast and surrounds the nail, causing it to embed in the skin.  Ingrown nails commonly occur when dance shoes (especially pointe shoes) fit improperly or the nails are cut in a curve.  To prevent ingrown toenails, be sure that shoes are not too tight or too narrow, and cut nails straight across rather than on the curve.

Minor cases can be self-treated by lifting the nail out of the skin with a sterilized metal nail file, trimming the end with a clipper or scissors, and placing sterile cotton under the edge.  The cotton should be removed once swelling subsides and the nail begins to grow correctly over the skin.  Although not always painful, ingrown nails can become terribly painful and infected if left untreated.  You should not attempt to trim a severely ingrown nail on your own; a general physician or podiatrist can relieve the condition by applying local anesthesia and trimming the excess skin and nail away.  Redness, swelling and puss-filled blisters are signs that the nail is infected.  In this case, seek medical attention immediately.

Avulsion (Nail falling off):

Acute events such as stubbing a toe can tear the toenail partially or fully off.  If this happens, great care should be taken to keep the area clean and sterile, because this injury carries a strong risk of infection.  If any part of the nail remains, leave it until the newly forming nail pushes it off.  Pulling the old nail off can cause further damage to the nail bed, lengthening the time to heal.

Subungal Hemotoma (Bruised toenail):

Subungal hemotoma submitted by reader Lisa
Subungal hemotoma submitted by reader Lisa

Subungal hemotoma has the appearance of a purple colored bruise under the nail, and can be caused by stubbing the toe, dropping a heavy object on the foot,  getting stepped on, or improperly fitting point shoes (as was the case with Lisa, pictured right).  The pressure under the nail from collecting blood can cause pain and tenderness.  Serious hemotomias should be drained using a heated needle that is heated by a battery operated device.  This technique is called electrocautery and should only be attempted by a physician.  In rare cases a portion or all of the nail may need to be removed.

** Note: Fact sheets are compiled from peer-reviewed resources, and intended for reference only.  For a complete list of references, click here.  In the event of a serious injury, seek advice from a licensed health professional.  The original content of this site is protected by copyright and may be shared, but not be republished without permission.  For full disclaimers and disclosures, visit our policies.

 

 



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