Home Beautygab Bruised Toenail Vs Fungus

Bruised Toenail Vs Fungus

by Gabbi

There’s little more terrifying than discovering something wrong with your body. Whether it’s a knot in your back or a bruise you can’t quite remember getting, our immediate response is to figure out the best way to get things back to normal.

But if the something you discover happens to be the less-than-pleasant look of a discolored toenail, finding a remedy might be a little more difficult.

The truth is, there are a million different reasons as to why your toenails may have turned a different color, so figuring out the best way to approach the issue may not be an easy endeavor. However, it’s more likely than not that you’ve fallen victim to one of the following two causes: some under the nail bruising, or nail fungus.

Now that we’ve narrowed it down to two potential culprits, you’re going to need to do some light investigative work to be able to distinguish the two, that way you’ll be able to approach the issue directly. 

So how can you tell the difference between a bruised toenail and nail fungus? You can discern the two by looking at the color variation, the health of your nail, and possible migration of the problem over time.

In this article, you’ll find a basic walkthrough for being able to determine whether you’ve got a case of bruising or fungus – as well as some useful info on how to nurse your toenail back to health!

Color Variation

One of the easiest ways to discern between nail fungus and nail bruising, is making note of the color of the toenail. Both issues have very unique color shade variations that will make it easy for you to read the story your nails are trying to tell you.

  • Yellow

If the entirety of the nail is a yellow color, you’re probably looking at a very common fungal infection. These are easy to tell apart from bruises, as they typically don’t infect just a singular nail, and tend not to accumulate in one area underneath the nail bed. Instead, this coloration spreads throughout the whole length of the nail.

This type of fungal infection is not the prettiest, and can be quite the confidence killer. Thankfully, this type of infection is fairly commonplace as far as fungi goes, and can easily be eradicated with an over the counter cream or medication.

  • Red

If your nail is bright red, you’ve probably caught it in the beginning stages of bruising. It’s more likely than not that your nail has undergone recent trauma, and that blood is starting to pool underneath the nail bed. 

If it’s small, you probably don’t need to get medical help for it, but use your best judgment! Is the injury impeding the way you walk or get around? Does the bleeding look excessive, or does it take up more of your nail than just a small corner? If so, stopping by your doctors office won’t hurt.

  • Brown or Purple

You’ve probably caught your nail in the later stages of healing if you’re seeing browns and purples underneath the surface. Just like bruises on our skin, under the nail bruising darkens into brown hues when they’re nearing the end of their life span.

If this is your first discovery of your nail discoloration, then the bruise likely wasn’t painful enough for you to notice you had it in the first place. Should that be the case, you can carry on as you normally would- this bruise won’t cause you any more trouble. 

  • Black

A black toenail is most likely due to bruising, but in some cases, a black nail is caused by fungus due to debris build up. In instances of a bruise, you’ll have to use your best instinct to tell if you should seek medical attention.

This type of toenail bruising is common in runners, or people who are on their feet for long hours of the day. Unfortunately, this means they can be more painful and take longer to heal as the nail isn’t getting the elevation and rest it needs. 

If you suspect fungus is the culprit, it will come with more tell tale signs than just discoloration! We’ll get to accompanying symptoms later.

  • White

Have you spotted a white to cream colored dot on the tip of your nail? You may be catching nail fungus in its initial stage of blooming. However, white spots on the nails are an everyday occurrence, so we recommend keeping an eye on the spot to see if it grows. 

Should the spot change size or color as the days and weeks go by, it’s likely you have a fungal infection over any other issue. 

Nail Health

Checking out the state of your nail health is also another surefire way in being able to tell the difference between nail fungus and bruising. Your nail health will likely be the initial telltale sign that something is wrong, as the symptoms are hard to ignore. 

Nail bruising occurs when the blood vessels underneath your toenail break and burst, and is usually caused by some sort of trauma to the nail.

You can blame this on any injury or event that subjected your toenail to immense pressure. This can be due to dropping something heavy on your foot, stubbing your toe, wearing too-tight footwear, etc.

If you’re an athlete, you’re probably no stranger to bruised toenails. If your sport involves kicking, or running (especially downhill) your feet are experiencing a lot more trauma than the average person, making you far more likely to burst the delicate blood vessels underneath the nail. 

So, if you can recall any instance that involved your toes being in a less than pleasant situation, you’re probably dealing with a bruise. However, it’s also quite possible that you may have hurt your nail without even noticing it. Thankfully, there are other ways to recognize a bruised toenail.

If you’re experiencing a throbbing pain in the toe, accompanied with some mild heat or swelling, you’re dealing with a bruise. These symptoms of bruising aren’t shared with nail fungus, so there’s no further investigation needed.

Nail fungus, in its early stages, can look like so many different types of problems that it may be hard to come to a solid conclusion as to what’s going on. But should it progress, it’s one of the easiest conditions to diagnose.

If your nail itself has thickened, or if it feels different to the touch, you are dealing with a fungal infection. Nail bruising will not change the state of your actual nail besides possibly creating a ridge or bump in the nail.

Once you notice that your nail thickness or color itself is undergoing changes, you can very easily determine that you have nail fungus.

If the nail is changing shape, or becoming more jagged looking as it grows, this is also a sign of fungus. A crumbly texture, or excessive brittleness are also amongst fungal symptoms, as well as noticing your nail ripping or falling off with little to no pressure involved.

In later stages of fungal infection, the nail itself may lift from the nailbed. This does not happen with bruising, and will most likely need prescription creams to heal. 

Another symptom that’s hard to avoid is an unpleasant odor. It’s normal for feet to smell after a long day wearing sneakers, but if you notice that the smell persists after a shower, or even if you’re just lounging around at home, you’re likely dealing with nail fungus.

Strange as it may be, fungal infections are unlikely to cause any pain. If you find you have the symptoms of toenail fungus, and are feeling pain in the infected nails, you likely have a severe case that needs to be dealt with by a medical professional.


If the discoloration in your nails isn’t causing you any immediate issues, we still highly recommend keeping an eye on your toes to see how the problem goes (or persists) with time.

Nail bruising, especially small, superficial bruises, will grow with the nail. Over time, you’ll see the blood clot rise with your natural nail growth, to the point where you can simply clip the lasting discoloration away. 

Simple bruising is unlikely to cause any long-term issues, but depending on how large of a bruise you had, it could take several months for the clot to grow out. The best advice we have to give to someone with a bruised toenail is to let it be.

You don’t want to cause more trauma to the nail, even if you have good intentions. Do not attempt to drain the blood on your own, and don’t cut the nail down too short. Just let time go by, and let your body deal with the issue at hand. If it’s causing you a lot of problems, leave them in the hands of a doctor.

Nail fungus, on the other hand, is an issue that will persist over a period of months, or even years if left untreated. Fungal infections will likely affect the whole nail, including new growth. That means that waiting for the issue to grow out isn’t an option. 

However, if you’re able to get medication or creams, you can eradicate the fungal infection entirely. That means the new nail coming in will be unaffected. Unfortunately, it will take around 12-18 months on average for a new toe nail to come in entirely, so be careful with your nails until then!

Related Questions

How long does it take for a fungal infection to clear up?

Should you catch a fungal infection in the early stages, you can clear one out in less than a month- especially if your only symptoms are yellow discoloration of the nail. But if your infection has blossomed into something more severe, it could take up to 18 months (in extreme cases) to completely get rid of toenail fungus .

What can I do to remedy a bruised nail in the short-term?

Stay off your feet when you can! The last thing a bruised nail needs is additional pressure. Make sure to elevate your foot at night, and to ice it while you’re resting. If the throbbing pain is hard to ignore, taking an anti-inflammatory medication like aspirin or Advil can help!

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