Paronychia refers to swelling and infection of the skin surrounding a fingernail or toenail.
Paronychia may be caused by repeated injury that creates swelling. It may also be caused by an infection with bacteria or yeast organisms. Swelling lifts the wall of skin underlying the nail and makes the area more prone to future infection.
Paronychia may cause swelling, tenderness, and redness of the area around the nail. Nails may be discolored and may grow abnormally. Pus may leak from the cuticles, which are the thin layers of skin that cover the edges of a nail.
Following are some common causes of paronychia: repeated injury of the cuticle skin, such as in vigorous manicuresrepetitive soaking of hands in water at work or at homeexcessive hand washing, especially when the hands are not dried properlycutting nails too shortbiting or other trauma
Paronychia is more common in a person who is prone to bacterial and yeast infections, such as an individual who has diabetes. Repeated bouts of paronychia are common.
Paronychia can be minimized by avoiding prolonged soaking in water, by drying the hands well after hand washing, and by avoiding cutting the sides of the nails too short. Manicures should be gentle, to avoid trauma to the cuticles.
Paronychia can be diagnosed from the appearance of the nail and its surrounding skin. Sometimes a culture is done to identify the organism causing the infection. For a culture, a sample of the pus is collected and sent to the laboratory for examination under a microscope.
Paronychia can cause permanent nail damage. If paronychia is not treated effectively, the tissue and bone of the finger can become infected.
The organisms that cause paronychia are not usually passed to other people. However, the use of manicure tools that have not been sterilized can transmit the infection.
Antifungal and corticosteroid creams can be applied directly to the infected area. Antifungal and antibiotic medications taken in pill form may be needed to treat some infections.
Antifungal or antibiotic medications may cause headaches, stomach upset, or allergic reactions.
Paronychia should clear up completely with appropriate treatment but may recur periodically.
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.