Pain under thumb nail: 17 Causes and Remedies

Why is there a Pain under thumb nail?   The reasons are many: nail abnormalities, injuries to the finger, infection or diseases in other parts of the body.

Can you count how often you use your hands?  Without them, no job can be achieved. So, when there is a throbbing pain under thumb nail, you become desperate.

17 Causes of Pain under Thumb nail:

pain under thumb nail
Pain under thumb nail
Image source: healthline.com

Here are some reasons for this pain.  Analyze if the trauma you are experiencing is due to any of these:

Minor accidents to your thumb nail:

The morning rush to school or workplace can cause many mishaps.  Some of them are minor, and you forget it as you start travelling or reach your destination.

It is when you experience pain that you remember that you had hurt yourself.

Examples of minor injuries and mishaps are:

  • Ramming your finger in the car door or house door
  • Heavy objects landing on hands and feet
  • Deep Clipping of nails
  • Stubbing of toe
Pricking of nails by needle or any sharp objects:

If you surely know that the pain under thumb nail is due to the above mishaps, use an ice pack.

Subungual Hematoma:

Sometimes pain under thumb nail is due to bleeding in that area. This condition is called subungual Hematoma.   This occurs when you crush your finger nail probably due to an accident.  There is an immense pain as blood clots under your nail and pressurizes the nerves nearby.

This pain goes away in few days.  But if pain persists, it may be due to broken bones or damage to tissues near the nail bed.  It is advisable to consult a doctor if you experience this condition.

Overuse of Hands and wrists:

Do you experience finger hand or wrist pain along with pain under thumb nail? This is due to over-use of your hands or wrists.  Over use occurs when you are doing repetitive actions like typing, washing and playing.

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Overuse of your hands and wrists can cause various problems like

  • De Quervain’s disease – swelling of thumb side and wrist.  The symptoms of this problem include grasping and pinching difficulties.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome causes numbness and light pain.
  • Writers Cramps – repeated typing or writing can  cause these cramps
  • Trigger Thumb – produced when flexor tendon and its sheath swell in the finger or thumb area

Each of these hand related traumas can lead to severe pain under thumb nail.

Carpal tunnel type problem:

Carpal Tunnel is a small passage in your wrists that connects your arm and palm.  It protects the median nerve and flexor tendons that work when you bend your thumb or fingers.

When any of the nerves in this area malfunctions then you feel pain under thumb nail and other fingernails. You may also feel a numbness tingling sensation in your entire hand.

Paronychia:

Infection that occurs in the skin around your fingernails or toenails is called paronychia.  This infection is caused either by bacteria and fungus.  Paronychia caused by bacteria worsens faster than the one created by Fungus.

There are two forms of this infection – chronic and acute.  In the chronic form of this infection, the cuticle is damaged.  In acute form of Paronychia, pus-filled Swelling or redness occurs at the base of your nail.

Acute Paronychia occurs in only one nail.  Chronic Paronychia occurs in several nails at the same time.

Few of the symptoms of this condition are:

  • Severe pain under fingernail when pressed
  • Breakdown of cuticle
  • Nail sometimes separates from the skin
  • The nail becomes hard and deformed.
Health issues of other organs in the body:

People suffering from health issues like Diabetes, arthritis are prone to problems like carpal tunnel syndrome.  Hence they have more chances of experiencing pain under thumb nail.

Cutting nails too short:

When you cut your nails too short the tender skin beneath is exposed.  This skin is very sensitive and hence the pain under the thumb nail.

Cutting short will hurt while cutting even shorter may cause bleeding and infection.

Poor hygiene:

An uncut or unclean nail collects a lot of dirt which may be filled with germs and infection. These germs can settle in the nail causing various infections. Pain in thumb is a result of these infections.

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Keeping the nails clean can help prevent many diseases and infection.

Tumor in thumb:

Pain in Thumb could also be due to a neoplasm problem called Glomus tumor.  It is sometimes called Solitary Tumor. It occurs either in fingertips or in the foot.  They are extremely painful cuts or lesions especially when they come in contact with cold water.

These tumors may also take a bluish or white color.

White Nail:

This is formed due to a fungal infection that may occur superficially.  Though infection abates over a period, you might experience some pain under thumb nail.

Aging:

Healthy nails are strong, smooth and soft.  As you age ridges are developed, and your nails become brittle.  Nails become brittle and can break.

They may also be prone to diseases like psoriasis and eczema.  All these conditions can be a cause for acute Pain under Thumb nail.

Whitlow:

Whitlow is an infection at the tip of one’s finger.

Its two subtypes are Herpetic Whitlow and melanotic whitlow.  It is extremely painful and compared to a severe headache.  This condition is different from paronychia.

Pain in foot thumb also called the Big toe:

If you experience pain under thumb nail of foot, it may be due to ingrown nail.  Visit a Dermatologist to get it cured.  In case your whole leg is in pain your doctor might suggest antibiotics and painkillers.

Nail abnormalities:

There are various nail abnormalities which may be a reason for pain under thumb nail.  These abnormalities have to be taken seriously as they may indicate more serious ailments like anemia, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, thyroid problem, diabetes and heart problems.

These abnormalities may cause discoloration, changes in nail shape and size, swelling, bleeding and pain under thumb nail and other finger nails.  Visit the dermatologist if you have any of the following nail abnormalities at the earliest.

  • Terry nails
  • Koilonychia
  • Onycholysis
  • Mee’s lines
  • Yellow nails
  • White spots
  • Pitting
  • Clubbing
  • Beau’s lines
Skier’s thumb:

This is an injury experienced by skiers. Here, the soft tissue which connects bones of your thumb gets injured.  This condition could be one of the reasons for Pain under the thumb nail.

Wart on the Thumb nail:

Pain under Thumb nail could also be caused due to the presence of warts in the area.  Warts are caused due to the virus. Doctors advise you take topical medicine to remove the wart.

Diagnosis of Pain under Thumb nail:

If the pain under thumb nail is not temporary, it is advisable to consult a doctor or dermatologist.

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The doctor or dermatologist will first make a physical examination and ask few questions.

Later if he feels the problem is severe, he may ask you to take an X-ray, MRI (Magnetic resonance Imaging) or ultrasound.  The results of these investigations will determine if the problem is minor or it is due to other problems like fracture, tumor, arthritis or any other health issues.

Remedies for Pain under Thumb nail:

Home Remedies for Pain under thumb nail condition:
  • Soak the painful thumb in a bowl that has soap water for up to10 or 15 minutes.  You may also add Epsom salts to this solution
  • Use ice packs around the finger to ease the pain
  • Apple Cider Vinegar is another remedy with antiseptic, anti-inflammatory qualities. Soak your finger into a solution of this vinegar mixed with warm water.
  • Moisturize nails using aloe vera to keep them from becoming dry
Lifestyle changes:
  • Do not cut your nails short.
  • Use a dry clipper or scissors trim straight and round off tips using very less pressure
  • Do not bite nails
  • Maintain hygiene by keeping thumb and other fingernails clean.
  • Eat a balanced diet as some nail pain is an indication of deficiencies and Anemia.
Wearing wrist splints:

If the cause for pain under thumb is diagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome, then the doctor will give you a wrist splint to ease the pain.  You also will be advised to avoid certain activities that may pressurize the nerves in the carpal tunnel.

OTC medicines:

Doctors may suggest OTC medicines containing Cortisone, steroid or Acetaminophen for relief from pain under the fingernail.

Surgery:

Surgery is rare and is carried out in the following situations

  • In case you are suffering from glomus tumor, a Surgical excision is carried out to remove the tumor.
  • A surgery called Decompression is performed on a nail with a blood clot that is causing extreme pain under thumb nail. Decompression or trephination drains the clotted blood gives you relief from the pain.
  • If a ligament is completely torn due to skier’s thumb injury.
References:
  1. https://www.healthtap.com/topics/pain-under-thumb-nail
  2. https://www.practo.com/consult/pain-under-thumb-nail/t
  3. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/bleeding-under-nail#1
  4. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glomus_tumor
  6. https://www.healthline.com/health/nail-abnormalities-2
  7. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/handp
  8. https://utswmed.org/conditions-treatments/hand-wrist-and-elbow-overuse-injuries/

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