Paronychia is an infection in the skin around the fingernails or toenails. It usually affects the skin at the base (cuticle) or up the sides of the nail.
There are two types of paronychia: acute and chronic paronychia.
Acute paronychia often occurs in only one nail.
Chronic paronychia may occur in one nail or several at once. Chronic paronychia either doesn’t get better or keeps coming back.
Symptoms and signs
- Swelling around the fingernail or toenail
- Pus collection
- Pain and tenderness to touch
- An injury to a nail.
- Hangnails, which may lead to a minor infection next to your nails, causing the skin around the nails to become swollen and tender.
- Aggressively trimming or manicuring your nails can create a way for bacteria to enter and cause an infection.
- People who have jobs that frequently expose their hands to water or irritants such as chemicals used in washing dishes are at an increased risk.
- Persons with diabetes or diseases that compromise the immune system are more likely to develop infections.
If you have a mild acute paronychia, you usually can make the diagnosis yourself. Look for throbbing pain, swelling and redness in an area of damaged skin around a nail.
If you are diabetic, have several affected fingers or toes, or have severe symptoms (pus, fever, severe pain), you must be evaluated by a doctor. In most cases, your doctor can make the diagnosis by examining the affected area. However, if there is an accumulation of pus, the doctor may take a sample of the pus to be tested in the laboratory for bacteria or fungi.
Paronychia can cause permanent damage to your nail.
If you have diabetes, there’s a risk that paronychia could spread to deeper tissues and bones, or into the bloodstream and other parts of the body.
In extreme cases of deep infection, paronychia can result in the loss of fingers, toes or limbs.
When to Call a Professional:
Call your doctor if you have symptoms of a paronychia and
- You have diabetes
- You have an accumulation of pus near your nail or under it
- You have a fever
- The area of redness near your nail begins to spread up your finger
- You have milder symptoms (tenderness, mild redness, minimal swelling) that last for seven days or more
To prevent paronychia, try the following:
- Keep your hands and feet dry and clean.
- Wear rubber gloves with an absorbent cotton lining if your hands are exposed routinely to water or harsh chemicals.
- Be gentle when you manicure your nails. Avoid cutting your cuticles or pushing them back.
- Avoid biting your nails and picking at the skin around your nails.
- If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar levels within a normal range by following your diet and taking your medications.
Dr. Krishna Priya