Red Lines On Fingernails? Causes, Prevention And Treatments

Last Updated on February 10, 2021
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written by nail expert Jess Rowley

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Red Fingernails? Here’s Everything You Need To Know 

Have you got red lines on your fingernails and worried they may be a cause for concern?

You’re at the right place.

Red lines across your fingernails are also known as splinter hemorrhages, these are tiny blood spots that have burst underneath the nail causing red dots and lines. 

We often don’t pay much attention to our fingernails, unless they’ve snapped or fallen off, but they do say a lot about our health. It might not be until the next manicure that you realize there’s an issue. 

But wait let me tell you something:

I have actually sped a lot of time researching this issue, considering the causes, cures, prevention, and when it’s time to go seek medical advice!

They are often harmless but in some cases, they may indicate an underlying condition, but don’t worry I’m here to guide you through the confusing bits. 

Let’s cut to the chase and jump in! 

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So what is a splinter hemorrhage?

A splinter hemorrhage (red lines and red spots on the nail) is the result of a blood vessel bursting or leaking, as a result of an injury or from underlying health conditions.

If you don’t recall hurting your fingernail, I would book an appointment with your doctor to make sure it isn’t something more serious– in most cases, you may have hit it in your sleep.

These little blood spots under the nail look like splinters, it can also cause a splinter line-like line in the direction of your nail growth. They can occur on both your fingernails and toenails. 

What are the symptoms of a splinter hemorrhage?

A primary symptom of a splinter hemorrhage is a small amount of bleeding underneath the nail causing a dark red or brown line going along the nail. 

It gets its name from resembling similarly to a splinter, but on your nail. 

Splinter hemorrhages are usually harmless, you may not notice you’ve got one until you paint your nails or look at your fingernails in general.

These hemorrhages can be caused by something as simple as hitting your finger or toe on something. 

What causes splinter hemorrhages? 

Splinter hemorrhages can be caused by injury to the fingernail or toenail. For example trapping your finger between something heavy or hitting your finger on something can damage the blood vessel and nail bed. 

This then causes a blood vessel to leak and cause this red line as a result of the trauma. Splinter hemorrhages aren’t usually a cause for concern as long as you know for sure that injury was the cause. 

If you don’t recall injuring yourself it may be slightly more serious and could be a result of an underlying health condition that you may need to speak to the doctor about. 

These could include:

Bacterial endocarditis is bacteria in the bloodstream that not only causes these red dots and lines but also that travels to the heart valve.

– Vasculitis: This is when a blood vessel is damaged by inflammation

Fungal infections: Fungal infections can actually trigger thinning of the nail bed and cause blood vessel damage, if you notice other signs of a potential fungal infection on your nails I would recommend trying out a good nail fungus treatment and it should clear up. 

– Diabetes: This is also a very common cause of damaged blood vessels due to the high levels of glucose in your blood. 

– High cholesterol: High cholesterol can actually be quite damaging to your fingernails causing the vessels to damage and come out with these red lines.

Certain diseases: Diseases like nail psoriasis, lupus, scleroderma, peptic ulcers, rheumatoid arthritis and more can actually cause inflation of the blood vessels. 

– Raynauds disease: Fingers and toes that are sensitive to the cold can damage the vessels and capillaries in the nail bed. 

Splinter hemorrhages can also occur as a side effect of certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These medications can cause bleeding when taken in high doses.

When should I go and see a doctor?

There are many causes for these hemorrhages and they can be more complex than you may think if you’re worried or think any of the above may be the reason for your splinter then I would recommend seeking medical advice. 

You should definitely go and see your doctor if you witness any symptoms like fever or joint pain as well as the red lines! 

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Treatments

The best way to treat a splinter hemorrhage is to find the cause of the problem, whether it’s from trauma and injury or for underlying conditions there are different treatments.

Treatment for splinter hemorrhages caused by trauma:

For splinter hemorrhages caused by treatment, they will most likely go away on their own with time or as the nail grows out.

However, if you have pain in the nail there are some things you can do to help. For example, applying an ice pack to reduce swelling and inflammation and taking pain medication to help ease the pain.

These hemorrhages can be caused by something as simple as bashing your finger on the side, although they may take a while to grow out I wouldn’t be too worried!

Treatments for other causes or diseases: 

If you feel that these splinter hemorrhages have been caused by an underlying health condition it may clear up when you treat the underlying cause. 

I would recommend going to seek medical advice and go see your doctor when it comes to other underlying conditions as they will be able to prescribe some medication or antibiotics to help. 

This could even include antifungal treatments that focus on splinter hemorrhages. 

In more serious cases such as bacterial endocarditis, a doctor may advise for surgery to repair your heart valves to prevent this from happening in the future. 

It may be more simple than that though and simply be caused by medication, once you’ve come off the medication that’s causing the irritation it may clear up. 

Home remedies for splinter hemorrhages:

If these splinter hemorrhages are caused by trauma in most cases you can leave them alone and they will go with time. But to prevent them from working on your nutrition will really help. 

Taking multivitamins and zinc, along with eating a healthy diet and drinking lots of water will make drastic changes in your nail health as a whole, as well as preventing red lines and discolorations. 

Taking vitamins such as Vitamin D and Zinc will really help boost the health of your nails. I personally love taking Nature Made as they help support strong bones and nails, support nerve, muscle, and metabolic functions, promoting healthy nails as a whole.

Just adding vitamins to your diet will help, especially if you’re vegan or vitamin deficient– it helps you get all the good stuff! 

Summary:

When it comes to splinter hemorrhages it can be an easy fix or easy diagnosis, without being anything to worry about. We put of fingertips through a lot on a daily so it’s not surprising we find ourselves covered in bumps and scratches– it’s normal! 

They will go away over time if caused by injury, just paint over them with a nourishing base coat and pretty nail polish and you’ll be good to go!

If you have any cause for concern, instead of or worrying go to the doctor, they will set things straight and put your mind at ease. 

Don’t go googling your symptoms and coming to conclusions just based on a few pages– go seek the experts, they know what they’re doing! 

Now our pretty nails actually tell us a lot about our health, let’s not ignore the signs. 

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