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Paronychia: What Is It, What Causes It And How To Prevent It

Paronychia: What Is It, What Causes It And How To Prevent It

Your fingernails and toenails protect the tissues of your toes and fingers. They are build of layers of alpha-keratin – a hardened protein, which can be found in your hair and skin as well. The nails itself have no nerve endings, but they enhance the sensitivity of the fingerprint and function as counter-force when the end of the finger touches an object.

Healthy nails are usually smooth, consistent in color, and free of spots. The health of your nails can be an indication of the internal condition of your body. That’s why it is recommended to watch out for specific types of nail discoloration and changes in growth rate, as they can be signs of kidney, heart, lung, and liver diseases, or anemia and diabetes.

Nail diseases, also called onychosis, are deformities or diseases of the nail that might be caused by bacterial and fungal infections, tumors, ingrown nails, or warts.

One of the nail diseases is paronychia, which is a soft tissue infection of the nail folds and periungual tissues (where the nail and skin meet). According to Medscape, it occurs around a fingernail that begins as cellulitis but it may progress to a definite abscess or fungal infection. It can develop in adults and children, and usually, it is not serious and can be easily treated at home.

Let’s learn in detail about this nail infection, its causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment by scrolling down:


Credit: Federica Giusti / Unsplash


What is paronychia?

Paronychia is an onychosis, more specifically a skin infection around the fingernails or toenails. This infection usually affects the skin at the base (cuticle) or up the sides of the nail.

There are two types of paronychia:

Acute Paronychia

Appears suddenly and develops quickly, usually around the fingernails. Most of the time doesn’t last long. Acute paronychia occurs usually as a result of damage to the skin around the nails from biting, picking, hangnails, manicures, or other physical trauma. The most common infecting agents to cause this type of infection is Staphylococcus and Enterococcus bacteria.

Chronic Paronychia

Chronic paronychia may occur on your fingers or toes, it comes on slowly and lasts longer than acute paronychia. Usually, it is caused by more than one infecting agent, often Candida yeast and bacteria. Risk groups of this infection are mostly people who are constantly working in water.


Causes of paronychia

Paronychia occurs when the skin around the nail gets irritated or injured, due to chewing, biting, or picking at the nails. This way germs can get easily into the skin and cause an infection. These germs can be bacteria or a fungus.

If you are already a victim of the nail-biting habit, learn what may be causing it here: Nail Biting Causes: What Might Be Causing The Habit Of Nail Biting

Paronychia can also be caused by pulling hangnails, sucking on fingers, or an ingrown toenail.

Another factor which may cause chronic paronychia is when your hands are wet for long periods of time. Risk groups who may be exposed to moisture are dishwashers, bartenders, food handlers, or housecleaners. Chronic paronychia can also be triggered by irritant dermatitis, a condition that makes skin red and itchy. After the skin gets irritated, germs can easily cause an infection.

Paronychia is more spread among adult women, people who are diagnosed with diabetes, and people with a weak immune system. This includes people who must take medicine after having an organ transplant or people who are infected with HIV.


Symptoms of paronychia

Acute and chronic paronychia symptoms are very similar to one another. The major difference between these two types of nail infections is the speed of onset and the duration of the infection.

Some of the most common symptoms of paronychia are as followed:

– Swelling, pain, and redness around the base or the sides of the nail

– Pus-filled blisters (abscesses)

– Tenderness of the skin around your nail

– Changes in nail shape, color, or texture (deformed and thick nail)

– Detachment of your nail from the skin


Credit: Daiga Ellaby / Unsplash 


Prevention of paronychia

Take good care of your nails; keep them trimmed and smooth

See Also

– Avoid injuring your nails and fingertips

– Don’t bite or pick your nails

– Don’t cut your nails too short

– Don’t scrape or trim your cuticles, as this can injure the skin

– Use clean nail clippers or scissors

– Keep your hands dry and free from chemicals (you can wear gloves and change socks at least every day)

– Don’t wear the same shoes for two days in a row


Treatment of paronychia

If you are experiencing a mild case of paronychia, home treatments can result to be very effective and successful in treating paronychia. If there is a pus under the skin, you can soak the infected area in warm water several times during the day and dry it thoroughly afterward. The soaking will encourage the area to drain on its own.

However, if you have a more severe infection or chronic paronychia, it is recommended to visit your doctor. He may prescribe an antibiotic if the infection is not responding to home treatments. In very severe cases, when home remedies and antibiotics aren’t effective, you may need surgery to remove part of your nail.



Disclaimer: The contents of this article: text, graphics, images, and other materials contained are strictly for informational purposes only. The Content is NOT intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Please ALWAYS seek the advice of a qualified health provider with all the questions that you have related to, or about, a medical condition.


You might also want to read: 6 Natural Remedies For Ingrown Toenails

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