Paronychia is a skin infection that occurs around the nails.
Paronychia is common. It is often caused by injury to the area -- such as, from biting off or picking a hangnail or from trimming or pushing back the cuticle.
Paronychia may be caused by:
A bacterial and fungal infection can occur at the same time.
Fungal paronychia may occur in persons who have:
Main symptom is a painful, red, swollen area around the nail, often at the cuticle or at the site of a hangnail or other injury. There may be pus-filled blisters, especially with a bacterial infection.
Bacteria causes the condition to come on suddenly. If all or part of the infection is due to a fungus, it tends to occur more slowly.
Nail changes may occur. For example, the nail may look detached, abnormally shaped, or have an unusual color.
The doctor can usually diagnose this condition by simply looking at the sore skin.
Pus or fluid may be drained and sent to a laboratory to determine what type of bacteria or fungus is causing the infection.
If you have bacterial paronychia, soaking your nail in hot water 2 or 3 times a day helps reduce swelling and pain.
Your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics. In severe cases, your doctor may cut and drain the sore with a sharp instrument. Part of the nail may need to be removed.
If you have fungal paronychia, your doctor may prescribe antifungal medicine. Keep your hands dry and apply a skin-drying substance, such as Castellani paint (phenol).
Paronychia usually responds well to treatment. However, fungal infections may last for several months.
Complications are rare, but may include:
Call your health care provider if:
To prevent paronychia:
To minimize the risk of damage to the nails:
Infection - skin around the nail
Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 25.
Tosti A, Piraccini BA. Nail disorders. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 71.
Updated by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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