How to Treat a Blood Blister Under the Nail

Updated on June 8, 2017
Bobski606 profile image

I take anticoagulants for a genetic disorder that affects my clotting, so whenever I stub my toe badly I must drain the resulting blister.

What Is a Blood Blister?

Blood blisters, or hematomas, occur any time when blood leaks into the tissue surrounding a damaged blood vessel such as an artery, vein, or capillary. On the outside, they look just like bruises. They are usually harmless and will quite happily heal up on their own (though in some cases, such as brain hematomas, they are dangerous and need immediate treatment to avoid becoming fatal).

A blood blister under the nail is also known as a subungual hematoma. It is normally caused by experiencing a blunt trauma incident such as trapping your hand in the door or stubbing your toe. It is harmless, but can cause serious discomfort, sometimes requiring a painless procedure to relieve the blood that has built up. The procedure can be done at home if you have the equipment. If not, take a quick trip to the doctor's office, and a nurse can drill a small hole in the top of the nail to release the pressure and let the old blood out. There is usually some instant relief in cases like this, so it is worth the trip if you are suffering with the discomfort.

Blood Blister, or Subungual Hematoma

A blood blister, or sublingual hematoma, is caused by blood buildup under the nail, which can create painful pressure.
A blood blister, or sublingual hematoma, is caused by blood buildup under the nail, which can create painful pressure.

Have you ever had a blood blister?

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Symptoms of a Blood Blister

Blood blisters are fairly common and most people will be able to recognize them. The patient will first experience a throbbing sensation under the nail caused by the pressure of the blood trapped beneath. If the pressure is not relieved, soon then the nail will start to turn purple, blue, then black, at which point it is likely that the nail will fall off and the blood will all come out in one go—not a very pleasant thing to happen, in my opinion.

There is no reason to leave it that long, because the procedure is very simple and painless (though maybe a little scary at first). Please watch this video explaining how to drain a blood blister under a nail.

Draining a Blood Blister Under the Toe Nail

Treatment—How to Drain a Subungual Hematoma

The treatment for a blood blister is fairly simple to do at home with the right tools. Simply clean the area and make a small hole in the nail to allow the blood to drain.

Tools

  • Alcohol pad
  • 18-gauge needle
  • Peroxide

If you do not have the tools, then stop by your local health care provider, who can drain it for you in a quick visit.

If there is no pain, then you may leave the blood blister alone as they frequently clear up on their own. However, get it checked out at the first sign of pain or discomfort—you need to rule out the possibility of an infection.

Step 1: Clean the Needle and the Toe

Use the alcohol pad to clean the toe with the blood blister.
Use the alcohol pad to clean the toe with the blood blister.

Open the alcohol pad and use it to clean the needle, then the toe.

Step 2: Drill a Hole

Drill a hole through the nail with a needle.
Drill a hole through the nail with a needle.

Place the point of the needle on the center of the nail (or the center of the blood blister). Drill through the nail by rotating the needle left and right. Note: This is a painless procedure because the nail does not have any nerves. Do not apply a lot of pressure; the needle will drill through gradually.

Step 3: Let Out the Blood

Allow all of the blood to come out of the hole in the nail.
Allow all of the blood to come out of the hole in the nail.

When you see blood, wipe it away with the alcohol pad. Drill a little more after you first see blood to make sure that the hole is big enough to allow the rest of the blood to come out.

Step 4: Keep Blood from Clotting

Use peroxide to keep the blood from clotting in the hole so that blood can continue to drain over the next few days.
Use peroxide to keep the blood from clotting in the hole so that blood can continue to drain over the next few days.

In order to allow the continued release of blood over the next day or so, do not allow blood to clot in the hole. If it does so, dab peroxide on it to clear the hole once more.

Have you ever had to drain a blood blister?

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Complications of Blood Blisters

If you don't treat your blood blister you'll most likely have the nail fall off after a very painful and awkward period of time (awkward because it hurts too much to wear shoes and you spend your time in flip-flops or barefoot). If you are suffering from discomfort don't let the procedure put you off (I appreciate that it requires drilling a hole in your body), it will be worth a few more minutes are discomfort to feel that relief and quicker healing soon after.

Other potential complications include:

  • Infection of the nail
  • Fever
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Muscle and joint aches

If you have any of these symptoms or a general feeling of illness, you should see a doctor immediately.

Important Note

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace the care and attention of your doctor. If you have any problems, you should seek medical attention from a competent doctor.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Nisa Surrattan 

      4 months ago

      What will happen If I do not burts the blister and leave to heal just using antibiotics?

    • profile image

      Stephanie bailey 

      10 months ago

      I have one on my right big toe that a bootle dropped on... There a blood blister thats blue at the base but it dosent hurt... Should i just leave it alone or is the something i need to do asap??? I just dont want to leave it while its not hurting and it become a serious matter

    • profile image

      a figure skater 

      4 years ago

      my toenails are gross from skating especially my big toenails . . . i think they're blood blisters (?) but they don't ever hurt. the only complication for me is that they look gross and i feel self-conscious to wear open-toe shoes. good thing the damaged part of the toenail is almost gone. my right big toenail has been like this for a bit more than a year and a half, and my left for about half a year

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 

      6 years ago from Tucson, Az

      this is good info however you might want to add complications and how often this is actually done...if its not causing severe pain this trephination would not be done at all... in all cases/first,do no harm

      and ugh the idea of someone heating a needle or gem clip to red hot intensity and burning through my nail?????whew :) but a great start to a good hub!! keep going :)_

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