Paronychia is an infection that develops around the nails. It usually occurs after the cuticle or skin around the nail has been injured or damaged.

Causes of Paronychia

Paronychia is an infection of the nail fold caused by bacteria or yeast infections, and can happen anytime the skin around the nail has been compromised. Biting or picking at a hangnail, overzealous cuticle trimming or other trauma can cause openings in the skin, allowing for infection to develop.

Although paronychia is sometimes seen in the toes, the condition is more often on the fingers.

Symptoms of Paronychia

Acute paronychia may have a sudden onset and is often to due to localized Staph infection of the skin. Chronic paronychia is more prevalent in people who frequently have their hands in water including dishwashers, swimmers, bartenders and housekeepers. Symptoms of paronychia are usually limited to the area around the affected nail and include:

  • Redness
  • Pain or Tenderness
  • Pus pocket or abscess along the nail
  • Nail changes can occur in long term or repeat infections causing nails to appear misshapen, detached or discolored

Treatment of Paronychia

Most cases of paronychia clear up in a few days. If the infection is mild, soaking your nail in warm water two or three times a day may be the only treatment required.

More serious or persistent cases of paronychia may require prescription antibiotic or antifungal treatment. In some cases, your dermatologist may also need to drain the abscess.

Schedule an appointment at your dermatology clinic if the infection spreads beyond the nail bed area, red streaks develop or the finger pad swells.

Preventing Paronychia

Paronychia can recur. To reduce your risk, follow these steps:

  • Avoid picking or biting your nails and cuticles
  • Trim nails carefully with clippers or manicure scissors after a bath or shower when they are softer
  • Avoid damage to the cuticle or nail
  • Protect hands from repeat exposure to water and chemicals by wearing rubber gloves over cotton liners
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