What is paronychia?


Know the basics

What is paronychia?

Paronychia is a skin infection that occurs around your fingernails and toenails. The infected nail fold looks swollen, inflamed and may be tender. It is can be caused by a yeast infection or a bacterial infection or some other types of fungi. Paronychia may develop slowly and last for weeks or show up suddenly and last for only one or two days. If left untreated, it can cause serious infection or even loss of a part of your nail.

How common is paronychia?

In US, paronychia is the most common hand infection in the United States, representing 35% of these disorders. The infection is more common in women than in men, with a female-to-male ratio of 3:1. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of paronychia?

The common symptoms of paronychia are:

  • Nail changes. For example, red, swollen, detached, abnormally shaped nail;
  • A crack in the nail fold or trauma to the nail;
  • Throbbing and tenderness in the skin around the nails;
  • The skin around the nail feel moist and might have mucus.
  • Fever, chills and genera ill feeling
  • Joint and muscle pain

If untreated, the infection can extend into the thick layer of skin around the nails (eponychium) to peel off the nail.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes paronychia?

There are many causes the infection in paronychia. However, the most common are:

  • Bacterial infection is usually painful and sudden.
  • Yeast infection develops slowly and do not cause any mucus in most cases.
  • Other type of viruses and fungi might also lead to paronychia, but they are less common.

Sometimes paronychia can happen because your nail has the right environment to attract bacteria, such as:

  • If you often have your hand in the water or detergents.
  • For example, nail biting, poor manicure, damaged or diseased nails or nail folds, etc.
  • For example, if you use gloves for long periods, or use artificial nails.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for paronychia?

There are many risk factors for paronychia, such as:

  • People who bite their nails or pick at the skin next to nails;
  • People who often wear gloves.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is paronychia diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose paronychia by looking at the infected nail. If needed, they will request a test from the sample like pus or fluid drained from the infected nail to find out the cause of the infection for the best treatment.

How is paronychia treated?

If you have mild paronychia, home treatment is all you needed. You can try soaking your hand in warm water 2-3 times a day to reduce swelling and pain. Painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, often work well to ease any pain. After soaking, you can put on antibiotic cream if your infection is caused by bacteria.

If your paronychia develops mucus, your doctor will want to drain the mucus first and then give you antibiotics drugs to take at home. Part of the nail may need to be removed.

If you have fungal paronychia, your provider may prescribe antifungal tablets or cream. Keep your hands dry and apply a skin-drying substance if needed.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage paronychia?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with paronychia:

  • Avoid biting your nails;
  • Avoid expose your hand to water for too long;
  • If you have to work with water, wear gloves with cotton lining on the inside;
  • Avoid wearing gloves or fake nails for too long;
  • Taking care of the skin and nails properly.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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