It is often emphasized how certain body parts reflect our health and fingernails are one such part, which depicts a lot about our health just by the looks of it.
Have you ever noticed how some nails have different colors and textures but do they have any relevance?
Well yes, one such relevance is that of a narrow black line or lines that form vertically beneath your nail. This condition is called a ‘Splinter hemorrhage’. This occurrence could be due to several reasons and may or may not be a serious health disorder.
So, what exactly is it?
The formation of black lines arises in the tissues of the nail bed and can also be due to an injury. ‘Subungual Melanoma’, a fatal form of skin cancer could also be one of the reasons for these occurrences, if the formation of these lines is thicker and cover a major portion of your nail. The word subungual comes from the Latin word “sub” meaning beneath and “unguis” meaning nail or claw. Melanoma is a form of cancer that builds in cells called melanocytes. These cells produce melanin, the pigment which gives color to the skin, hair, and eyes.
While in most cases subungual melanoma is found on the thumb or big toe, it can also be possible that these appear on any fingernail or toenail. Although they are often misdiagnosed and assumed to be a fungal infection and can sometimes be left ignored, they can, however, prove to be fatal for your health.
This condition is relatively uncommon and affects around 0.7% to 3.5% of the population with malignant melanoma worldwide. The condition is more common to be found among darker-complexioned individuals, including Asians, Hispanics, Africans, Americans. Subungual melanoma is also more popular among women and men in their 60s and 70s.
These are dark or faint black streaks that run parallel to the cuticle. Some of these streaks can be brown, black, or dark blue, and in some cases, these can be non-pigmented as well. With time, more streaks may appear and might often be of a different color and the portion nearest to the cuticle may become wider.
One of the most common findings in subungual melanoma cases is Hutchinson’s sign. This is when the line extends from the top of the nail to the nail bed and finally makes its way into the cuticle.
Some of the characteristics include:
- Streaks that are reddish-brown or black.
- Reflects on more than one place under the nail.
- The thin black/brown lines expand in width but do not push upwards on the nail accompanied by pain and inflammation
What causes these black lines?
There could be multiple reasons for the appearance of these faint black lines.
- Nail trauma: Any injury on the nail, for example getting the finger stuck between an object
- Genetics, hereditary.
- If the blood vessel under your nail has burst due to an injury
- Multiple moles.
- Increased melanin production by the melanocytes
- Low levels of vitamin A, vitamin B, Vitamin B12, or keratin
- During pregnancy in some cases, black lines are normal to appear due to hormonal changes
- Endocarditis: It is a condition where an infection develops in the inner chambers or valves of the heart. According to research around 15% of people with endocarditis have vertical black lines on the nails.
- A history of prolonged illness.
- A fungal infection, which more often has darker non-vertical stripes with yellow or white lines.
- Weak immune- for example in organ recipients or someone with advanced HIV.
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- Mostly prevalent in dark-skinned people
Due to a wide array of reasons for the occurrence of the black lines, self-diagnosis is not recommended. However, it is advised to visit a dermatologist/cosmetologist before making any assumptions or starting self-medication, if you notice the black lines on your finger or toenails.
What treatments are available?
Poor diet and vitamin deficiencies are some of the most common reasons for any ailments and making healthy changes in your lifestyle with regards to your diet and hygiene can prove to be beneficial in the long run.
- Consume highly nutritious foods like greens, eggs, and fish.
- Foods heavily loaded with iron, zinc, and Vitamins are also required.
If the diagnosis relates to a fungal infection, there are home several remedies to try for the removal of black lines naturally. Alternatively, one can also choose to go as per the medication prescribed by your doctor.
Some of the good home remedies to try are:
1.) Baking Soda is used to cure fungal infections
- ¼ cup of baking soda.
- 1 cup – apple cider vinegar
Mix the ingredients well in a bowl and dip your affected nails for about 15 minutes and pat dry with a clean dry towel.
2.) Apply coconut oil on the affected areas at least three times a day. Coconut oil has good antifungal properties.
3.) With the help of a cotton ball apply lemon juice to the affected part of the nail.
- For black lines or splinter hemorrhage caused due to an injury or nail trauma, it may take up to days or months to heal. If this is accompanied by pain and inflammation, apply an ice pack or cold compress on the affected area and consult your doctor if this prolongs.
- In the worst cases, doctors may surgically remove the affected toe or nail or can also extract only the abnormal tissue that is causing the vertical black lines.
- The doctors can also go for radiotherapy which is a treatment through X-rays.
- In cases of ‘metastatic melanoma’ that is when cancer spreads to the other parts of the body, doctors may go for immunotherapy.
- Treatments vary from patient to patient as per the different stages of melanoma. For advanced subungual melanoma, other therapies may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy.
The appearance of a black streak on the nail can put you in agony but it does not imply that you have a disease or are at the risk of an ailment.
While at the same time this should not be ignored especially if the condition persists along with bleeding. It is advised to maintain nail hygiene and consult a dermatologist, if a problem is found early diagnosis and treatment helps.
In case you think you might have this, seek medical immediately.
The Knowledge included here is only for information sharing purposes, and the blog is not intended to be a substitute for diagnosis, medical advice, or treatment by a healthcare professional. Because individual needs appropriate advice, the reader should consult their doctor to determine the appropriate disease depending on their situation.
Disclaimer: The information included here is only for knowledge sharing purposes, and the blog is not intended to be a substitute for diagnosis, medical advice or treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of individual needs appropriate advice, the reader should consult their doctor to determine the appropriate disease depending on their situation.