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Splinter Fingernails - Curious symptom caused by a blow or possibly an indication of heart disease.

Updated on September 2, 2016
Splinter fingernail
Splinter fingernail
endocarditis infection
endocarditis infection

A strangely descriptive name for this condition – splinter fingernails are small vertical areas of bleeding (haemorrhaging) under either the fingernails or toenails. They are so called because the reddish brown colour, of the blood, looks like a wooden splinter under the nail. They run in the direction of the nail growth and most commonly are caused by damage to the small capillaries under the nails.

This can be as a result of trauma to the nail by impact or tightly gripping, resulting in swelling of the blood vessels (vasculitis) or tiny clots that have damaged the small capillaries (microemboli).

Although splinter fingernails primarily occur because of the minor trauma mentioned above, there can be a far more serious cause relating to an infectious subacute or acute bacterial infection of the heart valves (endocarditis).

Before we overreact or worry unnecessarily, endocarditis is a rare (1 in 3000 per year in England) albeit potentially fatal heart infection, and for that reason we must take notice of the symptoms and seek prompt medical advice. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart (the endocardium), being caused by bacteria entering the blood stream and travelling to the heart. Under normal circumstances the heart is pretty resistant to infection and bacteria usually pass through without causing any harm. However, if the heart valves are damaged or diseased or have been replaced with an artificial valve, the bacteria has a toehold and can infect and bypass your normal immune response.

The symptoms of endocarditis are similar to having flu and can include all or some of the following; an elevated temperature, a chilly feeling, lack of appetite, headache, shortness of breath, night sweats, cough and joint pain. The infection must be identified and treated without delay otherwise it can damage the valves of the heart, disrupting the normal flow of blood. This can result in a series of life-threatening complications, which will prevent the heart from pumping sufficient blood to maintain the body’s requirements or may trigger a stroke.

Treatment is by using a high dose of antibiotics (penicillin being best but plus 2 or 3 other types) given intravenously for which you will need to be admitted to hospital to ensure the flow rate is correct and to monitor your system. Around 1 in 5 people may also need surgery to repair or replace a damaged heart valve or to treat and drain away any abscesses that had developed.

The risk of developing endocarditis increases if you have a prosthetic (artificial) heart valve or transplanted animal valve, have congenital heart disease, have damaged heart valves or inject drugs such as heroin – heroin users carry 3 times the risk of the normal population. However, even in these higher-risk groups endocarditis remains a rare condition. It is more common in people over 50 with twice as many men than women being recorded. There are some cases of endocarditis being recorded in children, but more commonly in those who are born with congenital heart disease.

Alternative treatments:

Endocarditis requires aggressive medical treatment, but certain natural remedies can be used to support conventional drugs but they must not be used in place of ethical drugs and in all circumstances must be discussed with the doctor. Endocarditis patients will be in hospital so administering natural remedies in the early stages would be very difficult.


In the early stages adjust your food intake to give the body the best chance of fighting infection.

Ensure you are not eating any allergens. Eliminate dairy, wheat, soya, corn, preservatives, and all chemical food additives.

Eat foods high in B-vitamins and iron, such as whole grains, dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), and sea vegetables.

Eat antioxidant foods, including fruits (such as blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes), and vegetables (such as squash and red & green peppers).

Eliminate refined foods such as white breads, pastas, and sugar.

Eat less red meat and more chicken, cold water oily fish, tofu and beans for protein.

Use only healthy oils in the diet, such as olive oil, sunflower or other light vegetable oil. Avoid hydrogenated or hardened fats.

Cut out completely baked foods such as biscuits, cakes, French fries, onion rings, doughnuts, processed foods, and margarine.

Avoid tobacco and restrict drinking to one measure of spirits or glass of wine each day.

Take gentle exercise, 5 days a week.


Take a good quality multivitamin daily; make sure it containing the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, the B-complex vitamins, and trace minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, and selenium.

Include Omega-3 fatty acids, derived from fish or flax oil, to help decrease inflammation and help boost immunity. However, Omega-3 fatty acids can act like aspirin and cause continued bleeding, speak with your doctor or surgeon if you are taking any other anticoagulant.

Include the following in your daily supplements, but it may be a good idea to mention them to your doctor in case of any clash with your other medication.

Vitamin C, 1,000 mg daily, as an antioxidant and for immune support.

Alpha-lipoic acid, 25 - 50 mg twice daily, for antioxidant support.

Magnesium citrate, 200 - 400 mg daily, for heart health.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), 100 mg twice a day, for heart protection, which is quite a high dose and rather expensive. Discuss with your doctor. This has a very good record of improving a weak or diseased heart.

Resveratrol (from red wine), 50 - 200 mg daily, to help decrease inflammation and for antioxidant effects. (Personally I would have a glass of good red wine each day)

Lycopene, 5 mg 1 - 3 times daily, for antioxidant and blood pressure lowering activity.

L-theanine, 200 mg 1 - 3 times daily, for stress and nervous system support.

L-arginine, 1 -2 gm 3 times daily, for blood vessel and immune support.

Probiotic supplement (containing Lactobacillus acidophilus), 5 - 10 billion CFUs a day, take to counteract a stomach upset when taking high doses of antibiotics.

Grapefruit seed extract (Citrus paradisi), 100 mg capsule or 5 - 10 drops (in fruit juice or similar) 3 times daily when needed, for antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral activity, and to improve immunity.

In all cases discuss all of the supplements with your doctor.


Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), You can take this either as a tablet 150 - 300 mg 2 - 3 times daily, for blood pressure support or as a tincture of this mushroom extract, 30 - 60 drops 2 - 3 times a day. Particularly good when taken in conjunction with vitamin C.

Green tea (Camellia sinensis) can be taken as a standardized extract, 250 - 500 mg tablet daily, for antioxidant and heart health effects. Green tea may interfere with the action of some blood thinning medications so discuss with your doctor.

Garlic (Allium sativum), can also be taken as a standardized extract, 400 mg tablet 2 - 3 times daily, for heart health. Garlic supplements also have an effect on certain blood thinning medications so again discuss with your doctor. Try to use the low odour version.


I would be very reluctant to suggest any homeopathic remedies as for specific serious cases they need to be tailored to the individual. However, a visit to a homeopathic specialist who can assess you would be very worthwhile.


Acupuncture may help improve immunity and strengthen heart function and has been found to be very useful.


Treatment from a reiki practitioner has been found to offer outstanding results and would be very beneficial.

Essential oils

The essential oils normally used in the treatment of endocarditis including clove, lavender and geranium. The normal blend ratio would be 3:1:1. The essential oils should be blended into 50ml carrier oil (Argan, Rosehip or Sweet almond). This blend can be applied, either massaged gently into the chest or without using the carrier oil via an essential oil diffuser and inhaled while resting or gently occupied.

Warning note

If you feel any adverse effects, dizziness or sickness, discontinue use immediately and advise your doctor.

Have you ever noticed markings of this sort on your nails ? If so what did you do about it

See results

© 2013 Peter Geekie


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    • Peter Geekie profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Geekie 

      6 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear sfshine,

      As I mentioned the dark vertical marks are the only ones to consider. Horizontal ridges are often an indication of current or past illness. When I was seriously ill a few years back each of my nails, including toe nails developed a horizontal ridge which took about 6-9 months to grow out.

      Vertical ridges are perfectly common and indicate nothing.

      kind regards Peter

    • sfshine profile image


      6 years ago from Michigan

      Very interesting information. I wondered before about those ridges on the nail. Sometime, they come and go. I will keep an eye and be cautious.

    • Peter Geekie profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Geekie 

      7 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Thank you for your comment.

      Vertical lines on the nails are quite normal and common. Ridges horizontally usually indicate previous serious illness or surgery.

      From your description all seems to be well as far as disorders indicated by nails goes.

      kind regards Peter

    • diogenes profile image


      7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Interesting. Mine seem to be wrinkled, vertically, but no blood and are very strong.


    • Peter Geekie profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Geekie 

      7 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear af1234,

      I know people are sceptical of doctors looking at their fingernails but this is a good case in point.

      I did try to make it clear that heart valve disease was very rare and in the vast majority of cases the nail damage was caused by trauma of some sort.

      Kind regards Peter

    • afitz324 profile image

      Amy Beatty 

      7 years ago from Nazareth

      Huh...this was interesting. I have seen this before on my fingernails, but I'm sure it was some sort of trauma. This is good information. I would never suspect endocarditis if saw this on someones fingernails, but it's good to know!


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