Navigate Up

Seniors Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

Splinter hemorrhages

Splinter hemorrhages are small areas of bleeding (hemorrhage) under the fingernails or toenails.

Alternative Names

Fingernail hemorrhage

Considerations

Splinter hemorrhages look like thin, red to reddish-brown lines of blood under the nails. They run in the direction of nail growth.

They are named splinter hemorrhages because they look like a splinter under the fingernail. The hemorrhages may be caused by tiny clots that damage the small capillaries under the nails.

Splinter hemorrhages can occur with infection of the heart valves (endocarditis ). They may be caused by vessel damage from swelling of the blood vessels (vasculitis ) or tiny clots that damage the small capillaries (microemboli).

Common Causes

  • Bacterial endocarditis
  • Injury to the nail

Home Care

There is no specific care for splinter hemorrhages. Follow your health care provider's instructions for treating endocarditis.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your health care provider if:

  • You notice splinter hemorrhages and you haven't had any recent injury to the nail

Note: Splinter hemorrhages usually appear late in endocarditis. Likely other symptoms will cause you to visit your health care provider before splinter hemorrhages appear.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your health care provider will examine you to determine the cause of splinter hemorrhages. The health care provider may ask you the following medical history questions:

  • When did you first notice this?
  • Have you had an injury to the nails recently?
  • Do you have endocarditis, or has your health care provider suspected that you have endocarditis?
  • What other symptoms do you have, such as shortness of breath, fever, general ill feeling, or muscle aches?

Physical examination may include special attention to the heart and blood circulation systems.

Laboratory studies may include:

In addition, your health care provider may order:

After seeing your health care provider, you may want to add a diagnosis of splinter hemorrhages to your personal medical record.

References

Tosti A. Diseases of hair and nails. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 450.

Mackowiak PA, Durack DT. Fever of unknown origin. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 51.

Updated: 8/19/2013

Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com