Treating Common Fingertip Injuries
The most common fingertip injuries are generally not a serious cause for concern. In most cases, treating an injury to the fingertip is relatively simple. There are some circumstances in which the fingertip may become injured in a critical way, such as an amputation of the tip. An injury such as this would definitely warrant the care of a medical professional. We are going to talk about a few fingertip injuries that one is most likely to encounter as well as ways in which each injury should be treated.
Before we get into the different types of injury, it helps to know a little about the physical makeup of the finger. Each finger is made up of three bones. The fingertip itself only possesses one of these bones, called the distal phalanx. Protecting the outer topmost portion of the fingertip is the fingernail. Below that is the nail bed, which protects the distal phalanx bone. On the very tip and lower portion of the finger, often referred to as the “meat” of the finger, is the hyponychium (or pulp); which also surrounds and protects the bone.
Minor lacerations and scrapes are the most common forms of fingertip injury. These types of injuries typical affect the pulp of the finger and rarely reach the bone. In most instances, a cut or scrape to the finger can be treated at home. The first step in caring for a cut or scrape to the finger is cleaning out the wound. This can be done using an antibacterial cream, hydrogen peroxide, or rubbing alcohol. If using peroxide or rubbing alcohol, the liquid should be poured over the wound rather than applied with cotton, as cotton-based pads have a tendency to leave behind small fibers which could lead to infection. A typical band-aid or liquid (paint/spray-on) band-aid can be used to seal and close the wound which will prevent bacteria and dirt from penetrating the wound. Wounds of this nature generally heal within 4 to 6 days, depending upon the severity. Any time one suspects that a wound has penetrated to the bone of the fingertip, a doctor should be sought to administer treatment, as this type of injury is at a much higher risk of producing infection.
A fracture is a break in the actual bone of the fingertip. The most common type of fingertip fracture to occur is the hairline fracture. This is when the bone breaks “cleanly” without actually detaching. Most hairline fractures can be detected through an x-ray, but some are so fine that they are difficult to detect. As with a fracture that occurs in a toe, a fingertip fracture is generally left to heal on its own, as there is nothing medically that can be done to speed up the natural healing of the bone. Hairline fractures do not severely hinder one’s day-to-day activities and in fact sometimes go completely unnoticed or undetected.
Bruising of the fingertip most often occurs when the fingernail-side has sustained damage. Think about having one’s finger slammed in a door. The most common result is apparent bruising under the fingernail. In some cases, the bruising is so severe that the fingernail itself dies and falls away. Luckily, fingernails can easily re-grow, although the process of replacing an entire fingernail does take several months. As with a fracture, there really is no treatment necessary for a bruised fingertip. The body’s natural healing process for this type of injury is sufficient enough that it does not require treatment unless the skin has been broken. If the skin has been broken, then the treatment steps provided under the “laceration” section should be taken.
If a bruise has resulted as part of a serious injury, such as having the finger crushed, it would be advisable to see a doctor for treatment. The bone in the fingertip could in fact be crushed, or the nail may require physical removal. In some cases, severe bruising can also lead to swelling which must be relieved through a process of draining the accumulation of excess blood. The procedure for treating this kind of injury is simple and can be performed by a family doctor.
Fingertip injuries are, for the most part, fairly easy to handle at home. In fact, most require little or no actual treatment save for taking care while using the injured finger. However, any time an accident results in loss of any portion of one’s finger, a doctor should be sought immediately. Amputation can occur a countless number of ways, such as being careless with a kitchen knife or having an accident with an electric saw or other machinery. If possible, the severed fingertip should be completely surrounded with ice and taken to the hospital with the patient. The sooner the patient reaches the hospital, the greater the possibility is of reattaching the severed portion of finger. One should never try to treat or reattach a severed finger without the aid of a medical professional.