Damaged Nail Matrix - How to Treat, What Are the Causes?

Damage to the nail matrix is unfortunately a quite common problem, which results from mechanical injuries or is a consequence of improperly performed nail care procedures. What is the nail matrix and why can it be damaged? How to treat an injury? Learn more!

What is the nail matrix?

The nail matrix is its living part responsible for growth. As new cells produced in the matrix move forward, keratinization (hardening) occurs, leading to the formation of the nail. This way, the old nail plate is replaced by a new one. The matrix is also responsible for supplying nutrients and regenerating the nail bed. This delicate structure is located just below the nail fold, which protects it from injuries. Nevertheless, damage to the matrix often occurs, resulting in nail growth disorders, its unfavourable appearance, and pain.

Damaged Nail Matrix - Causes

The most common cause of problems is mechanical damage to the nail matrix. It occurs as a result of a sharp injury, such as a strong blow, pinching the fingertip in a door, crushing, or crushing with a heavy object. However, mechanical injuries are not the only possible causes. Certain habits and improperly performed care procedures can also result in matrix damage. The following factors should be distinguished:

  • cuticle picking - in individuals who have a habit of picking at the cuticle, which serves a protective function, a wavy nail plate is often noticeable - this is the result of matrix damage under the influence of too much pressure in the lunula area, where the nail is still soft and delicate;
  • improper use of a drill - if you press the drill too hard and too deep around the cuticles, you may damage the matrix;
  • cuticle cutting with a cuticle pusher - similar to the above example, when using this tool, excessive pressure is easy to apply, which can lead to nail plate distortion (rippling) and even matrix damage.

Symptoms of Mechanical Damage to the Nail Matrix

The first, difficult to ignore symptom of damage is severe pain, especially noticeable immediately after the injury. In the case of very severe mechanical trauma, the damaged nail matrix also presents symptoms such as a hematoma under the nail plate and oozing pus. In this case, the assistance of a dermatologist, podiatrist, or surgeon is necessary. Other factors signalling that damage may have occurred in the matrix include:

  • changes in the appearance of the nail - discoloration, indentations, cracks along the plate;
  • nail growth disorders - very often matrix damage manifests as inhibited growth or asymmetric nail growth;
  • onychomadesis - peeling of the nail plate and layering of subsequent nails.

At a later stage, further nail deformities may occur, as well as complications such as infection. The speed of nail growth returning to normal depends on the severity of the injury and how quickly appropriate treatment is undertaken. Even if the nail has completely detached from the matrix, it may regrow over time. Unfortunately, in the case of serious injuries, there is a high risk that proper nail growth will be compromised - the new plate may have a changed shape and/or uneven surface.

Reconstruction and Treatment of a Damaged Nail Matrix

If you suspect damage to the nail matrix, consult a specialist who will assess the severity of the damage and decide on the method of treatment. If a hematoma or pus appears after the injury, the first step will be to apply antiseptic agents (soaking the nail in them). This will help prevent infection.

If the damage is serious, the doctor may decide on the necessity of nail reconstruction or surgical intervention. Of course, not every injury requires such measures. Injuries that are not permanent heal spontaneously over time. Among the methods of repairing the nail matrix, which promote faster regrowth of a healthy nail, the following should be mentioned.

Nail Drainage

This is the clearing of the space under the nail plate, allowing trapped fluid (blood, pus) to escape. Drainage involves making a small hole in the plate, which allows for its cleansing.

Nail Removal

If the nail begins to detach from the matrix or has cracked, it may be necessary to remove the entire plate. This procedure can only be performed by a specialist!

Nail Reconstruction

The procedure under local anaesthesia is performed by a podiatrist or surgeon. It involves removing the damaged part of the nail, stimulating the nail bed, and placing reconstructive material (acrylic or UV gel). These materials also protect against bacterial and fungal infections. Remember that this solution is only possible when you are not dealing with an additional infection and do not have open wounds or only after healing.

Damaged Nail Matrix - Will it Regrow After an Injury?

In the case of a permanent injury to the nail matrix, its regeneration is impossible. All you can do is take external actions to improve the aesthetics and appearance of the nail using nail styling products. However, before opting for cosmetic treatment, consult a specialist to find out the actual condition of the plate and what you can do.

If the damage to the matrix is not permanent, proper nail growth after treatment or a procedure is possible. In other cases, you should wait for the plate to grow back at its natural pace. The return of the nail to its pre-injury state after repairing the damaged matrix may take on average from 6 to 12 months.

Damaged Nail Matrix - Home Treatment Methods

You can support nail plate regeneration with simple home methods and appropriate preparations. Ask a podiatrist for a suitable regenerating cream that will support the healing process. Ensure a diet rich in nutrients that support nail health, such as vitamins A, C, E, and biotin. At the same time, take care of the nail plate from the outside using nail conditioners. Avoid contact with aggressive chemical agents. Remember that the effects of your actions will be visible only if you use the above-described home methods regularly!

Damaged Nail Matrix and UV Gel Nail Treatment

Remember that damage to the matrix can also occur due to improper cuticle work using a cuticle pusher or drill. If you do UV gel manicures in a salon, choose only trusted, recommended nail stylists! Among the frequent causes of nail damage (not the matrix, but the plate itself!) associated with improperly performed and removed UV gel manicures are:

  • applying too many layers of UV polish, which weigh down the plate;
  • using low-quality products;
  • too intense matting of the plate;
  • using aggressive acetone-based removers;
  • scraping or peeling off the UV polish - these mistakes are made by people removing the UV gel manicure on their own.

A professionally applied, delicate UV gel manicure will, however, be a beneficial solution after pedological treatment. It can divert attention from unevenness and distortions of the plate, skilfully masking them. UV gel polish strengthens the plate, thus protecting it from potential damage. The styling should be done by an experienced person using high-quality products.

When to Consult a Specialist?

In the case of an acute nail injury - as soon as possible! Time plays a crucial role here because starting matrix repair within 24 hours of the incident increases the chances that the new nail will not be deformed.

A podological consultation is absolutely necessary in the case of painful injuries, manifested by a hematoma, significant changes in the appearance of the nail, delamination, and/or detachment of the plate. However, it is worth visiting a doctor even in the case of mild, not very painful injuries, resulting in nail rippling. Podological treatment will help restore the nails to their proper appearance and health.

Damaged Nail Matrix - Summary

Severe damage to the nail matrix can have extremely serious consequences - from pain to a potentially dangerous infection. If you suffer an injury, do not delay visiting a specialist. To prevent minor injuries, follow the rules of proper nail care and hand hygiene every day. When opting for manicure and pedicure, perform them extremely carefully and gently or use the services of only reputable beauty salons!

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