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Hand Injuries Caused by Glass

When to Get Help for Cuts

Injuries often happen during routine tasks, and hand injuries can be caused by something as routine as washing a wine glass.

Tendons connect muscles to your bone. The flexor tendons allow you to bend your fingers, while the extensor tendons extend your fingers and thumb. Here are some of the common hand injuries caused by glass that can result in tendon injuries:

  • Oversized light bulbs and holiday ornaments can easily be crushed in your hand under too much pressure, potentially causing flexor or extensor tendon injuries.
  • When washing glasses, too much pressure can cause the glass to break, which can cut your flexor or extensor tendons.
  • You may be tempted to use the palm of your hand to push down on an overflowing garbage can to create more space. However, glass jars, can lids or other sharp edges in the garbage can cause tendon injuries, particularly to the flexor tendon.

To avoid injury, be mindful of handling glass. Northwestern Medicine Hand Surgeon Thomas W. Kiesler, MD, suggests using the dishwasher or a handled sponge brush when appropriate. He also recommends, “Instead of applying pressure to get residual dried wine stains from the bottom of the glass, let them soak in water. Avoid scrubbing a wine glass.”

When to Seek Medical Treatment

Injuries from sharp lacerations potentially cause four different types of injuries depending on their depth and location: a simple laceration, nerve damage, tendon damage or foreign body deposition, which occurs when a small piece of glass remains in your hand.

A laceration or a superficial skin tear may need stitches at your local immediate care or emergency department. “I have found that people often shrug off a small laceration and fail to get medical care for their injury. The wound heals, but the deeper injury to the tendon or nerve can be missed without a thorough medical evaluation,” says Dr. Kiesler. “Also, little shards of glass sometimes can be buried within the tissues and can’t be seen on an X-ray.” Therefore, Dr. Kiesler suggests that lacerations be examined by a trained professional to ensure the nerves and tendons are working properly.

Additionally, speak with your physician about your symptoms, particularly if it feels the way it feels if you have a splinter in your hand. This can mean a retained glass foreign body. “If it’s superficial enough, you may be able to get the glass removed in the emergency department,” says Dr. Kiesler.

However, for more serious cases involving a deep piece of glass, or nerve or tendon damage, surgery may be required. “These types of injuries should be treated within the first week. Otherwise, more extensive reconstructive surgery may be necessary,” Dr. Kiesler cautions.