Seeing Thin Red Lines Under Your Nails? Is It Endocarditis?

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Thin red or reddish-brown lines under your fingertips can appear due to various reasons, such as trauma to the finger and other health conditions, including endocarditis. The appearance of these lines has traditionally been a part of the clinical criteria for diagnosing this rare condition.

Endocarditis occurs when the heart’s inner lining gets infected and leads to inflammation, which manifests into several flu-like symptoms and affects other parts of the body, like your fingernails. Read on to learn more about this rare heart infection and why it is critical to seek medical attention immediately.

How endocarditis affects your fingernails

Apart from flu-like symptoms like chills, fever, and nausea, endocarditis may cause. These are thin red lines under your fingertips running in the same direction as the nail grows and resembles splinters, hence their name. These marks indicate that small clots have damaged the capillaries under the nails or the blood vessels have been impaired or swollen.

What causes endocarditis

Endocarditis typically stems from a bacteria that finds its way into the body through various means, including a cut in the skin, dental work, or surgery. The bacteria travel through the bloodstream until they reach the heart and may get stuck in the heart lining or latch onto the heart valves and start to grow.

Small clumps of bacteria could also develop at the infection site and act like blood clots that move through the bloodstream and reduce blood flow to the organs. People are more prone to developing endocarditis if they have a heart valve disease, long-term central venous catheter, or a health condition that weakens their immune system. In addition, you may also increase your risk of endocarditis if you have had a previous case of it, have a history of intravenous drug use, and have poor dental hygiene habits.

The risks of endocarditis-induced splinter haemorrhages

Splinter haemorrhages alone are not particularly dangerous, but if you see them on your nails, it is important to notify your doctor immediately to determine their cause, as they may indicate a serious health concern.

As per a 2016 research, around one-third of the people with the condition developed thin red lines under their nails. Hence, these haemorrhages traditionally served as one of the bases for diagnosing endocarditis caused by infections as it is one of its telltale symptoms. Hence, with endocarditis being a rare and serious condition with potentially life-threatening consequences, it is best to see a virtual doctor in Singapore if you notice splinter haemorrhages and any of its other symptoms.

Treatments for endocarditis

If endocarditis is causing your fingernail haemorrhages, your doctor may prescribe treatment using IV antibiotics. This approach involves performing a blood culture on your blood and consulting with infectious disease specialists to determine which antibiotics are best suited to treat your specific case.

Patients typically undergo six to eight weeks of antibiotic treatments upon receiving an endocarditis diagnosis. This may be accompanied by surgery to replace affected heart valves and implanted materials like defibrillators and pacemakers or if the condition has affected the heart muscles or other body parts.


Splinter haemorrhages under the fingernails are a sign of blood vessel damage, which may be caused by endocarditis that has reached its later stages. Given that this condition could have potentially fatal consequences, it is highly recommended to contact your doctor immediately to prevent it from progressing any further.

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Reference: Cleveland Clinic

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