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What Tiny Red Stripes Under the Nails Say About Your Health

Health Signs in Hands: Page 5

By , Caring.com senior editor
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Multiracial Hands Making a Circle

Called splinter hemorrhages because they look like tiny red or brownish splinters under the nails, these are minute areas of bleeding that can signal infection in the heart or blood. Because they run in the direction of nail growth, they resemble splinters that got stuck under the nail.

Why? Splinter hemorrhages happen when tiny blood clots block blood flow in the capillaries beneath the nails. (Toenails, too.) They most often occur with an infection of the heart valves called endocarditis. This condition typically occurs in someone with a heart murmur or underlying infection. If you just have a few red spots under the nails and have never been diagnosed with a heart problem, don't panic: It's most likely that these are from some other cause, probably injuries to the hands.

What to do: Take your temperature to see if you have a fever. Bacterial endocarditis is typically accompanied by a low-grade fever. If you've never had your heart checked and are concerned about these symptoms, call your doctor for a checkup. However, if your heart's been given a clean bill of health, then heart valve infection is an unlikely cause and you can wait to see if the red spots clear up on their own.