What is Paronychia?
This is an infection that occurs on the nail folds of your fingers or toes or the soft tissue that surrounds your nail bed. When talking about nail folds these are the ridges that surround the side of your nail. Most people will have this infection at some time in their life. There are two different types of this infection which are:
- Chronic – this is an infection that will usually develop slowly and lasts for more than six weeks. This type is harder to heal. The people who will usually get this type of infection are the ones who expose their hands to chemical solvents or water constantly and diabetics.
- Acute – when it is this type of infection it will appear very suddenly and is usually after an injury to the area. It is more commonly found on your fingers but can appear on your toes and can last for less than six weeks
What the symptoms of paronychia are depends on which type you have. In addition to the individual symptoms either of these types of paronychia can cause you to develop brittle nails or nails that are discolored or distorted.
With this type the symptoms are less dramatic. You may also have several nails on the same hand that are affected at the same time. The area around the nail may be:
- Tender to the touch
- Have redness
- Swelling that is mild
The cuticle may also be missing and the skin that is around your nail may feel moist.
In the skin around you nail you may have:
- Throbbing pain
- A small collection of pus under the skin that is next to the nail. It could even be under the nail itself.
It may also feel warmth to the touch and with acute paronychia often only one nail is affected.
As with symptoms the cause of someone having paronychia depends on what type they have.
When a person has this type it is usually caused by some type of yeast infection such as the Candida. When a person has a chronic infection it can also be attributed to the herpes simplex virus.
This type of infection is usually caused by an infection when bacteria, Staphylococcus, have invaded your skin where it was injured. One of the injuries that can cause this infection is by overaggressive manicuring, especially if you tear or cut the cuticle, the paper-thin piece of skin that outlines the outer margin of the nail. It can also be caused by biting the edges of your skin around your nails or the nail itself. It can also be caused by sucking on your fingers or picking at the skin near your nails.
Which treatment would be best depends on whether it is a chronic or acute infection and the extent of the infection.
Because most of these types of infections are caused by a yeast infection, also known as fungi, your physician can treat it with antifungal medication either with a prescription or over-the-counter medication. Some of these antifungal medications can include Lotrimin, Clotrimazole, or Nizoral. You will need to make sure that you are putting this medication on the infection every day for a few weeks until it has totally cleared up. You will also need to keep the skin around the infection clean and dry. If it is a severe case you may have to take steroids or antifungal medications by mount.
If the infection is mild you may only have to soak the affected area in a mixture of antibacterial soap and warm water for at least fifteen minutes several times a day. If it does not improve or you see pus you should visit your physician to see if they want to treat it with an oral antibiotic. In addition to taking an oral antibiotic you will still have to soak the affected finger(s) or toe(s). If there is pus near the nail the physician may numb the area in order to drain the pus. The physician may have to remove a small part of your nail to make sure that it will completely drain.
If you have diabetes, start to run a fever, or notice that the redness is starting to spread up your finger or toe you call your physician right away to have it treated.
You also need to make sure that if you do a manicure or pedicure at home or have it done professionally you need to make sure that you do not cut your nails too short or cut the cuticle. You also need to make sure that the instruments that are being used for a manicure or pedicure are sanitized before using them. This is especially important if you are having a professional manicure or pedicure done. If you are one whose hands are in constant water or chemical solvent you need to make sure that you are wearing rubber gloves with the lining made of cotton. For children you need to keep them from biting their nails or sucking on their fingers. If you notice a wound or cut around the nails make sure that you wash it out with antibacterial soap or hydrogen peroxide and keep it clean to help prevent bacteria from getting inside and causing an infection.