What Are the Most Common Causes of a Bruised Toenail?

An ice pack, which can help with a bruised toenail.
Soccer players are prone to bruised toenails.
A bruised toenail is caused by trauma to the toe.
A person with a bruised toenail.
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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2014
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The most common cause of a bruised toenail is trauma to the toe itself. While the toenail cannot actually become bruised since it is composed of dead tissues, the skin underneath can become darkened and bruised when blunt force is applied to the toe over the nail bed. Less severe injury can also cause a bruised toenail. These injuries can include consistent rubbing from ill-fitting shoes, or repetitive force applied to the toe, such as during a soccer game.

A bruised toenail is generally always caused by some type of injury to the toe itself. Symptoms usually include discoloration and sometimes pain in the affected area. Pain may be severe and acute or it may present itself as a dull ache. When pain is minor or not present at all, treatment is not usually needed aside from refraining from engaging in activities that may present the risk of further injury.

In very severe cases where the nail bed is badly bruised, the bruised toenail may fall off. It is not a good idea to remove a toenail, but if it becomes loose and starts to come off on its own, nothing should be done to prevent this. A new toenail will eventually grown in its place, although this generally takes several months. In the meantime, the area should be kept clean and the nail bed should be kept protected with bandages or dressing.

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Sometimes the bruised toenail will not fall off right away. In these cases, the bruising will either heal on its own if given enough time, or a new toenail will grow in and slowly replace the damaged area. The same rules for keeping the area clean and protected will apply in this case.

Although most of the time, bruising on or below the toenail will be related to force applied to the toe, sometimes other injuries can also cause this. Frostbite, for instance, can lead to discoloration similar to bruising below the toenail. This is a potentially serious condition which can lead to irreversible skin damage. Sometimes a sharp object may find its way beneath the nail bed and cause an open wound which may also bruise. Any open would should be cleaned thoroughly to prevent infection.

Anyone with a severely blackened toenail, or with the nail falling off, should contact a doctor immediately. He or she can make a proper assessment of the injury and give further instructions for treatment. Toenail infections may have to be treated with prescription antibiotics.

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Discuss this Article

fBoyle
Post 3

@literally45-- Have you seen a doctor? It sounds like your toenail might be bruised and infected.

If you have an ingrown nail, it can cut into skin and cause bleeding when there is a physical trauma to the toe. This can in turn cause bruising and infection.

Even toenail fungus can cause pus underneath the nail that sort of looks like a minor bruise. It's best to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

literally45
Post 2

I'm not sure if my toenail is bruised or not. It looks like it's bruised but it's only blue/green on one side of the toenail. And I think that there is some kind of abscess underneath the nail.

I do play soccer every week, so I might have bruised my toe without realizing. What kind of toenail treatment do I need now? Can I take care of this at home?

SarahGen
Post 1

I bruised my toenail badly last year when I slammed my foot into a door. I'm still not sure how I did it but I was in the middle of a fight with my boyfriend and I wasn't really thinking.

I just remember being in a lot of pain. The toenail on my big toe turned completely purple in a short amount of time. I put ice on it but that didn't help. I think there was bleeding under the skin. A few days after this incident, my toenail fell off. I thought that I had lost it permanently but my doctor reassured me that it would grow back.

I didn't see any signs of a new nail until two months later. I believe it took about six months to have a fully grown toenail. I was so worried about the whole thing and I hope that I never get a bruised toe again.

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