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Alternative NamesInfection - skin around the nail
Definition Return to top
Paronychia is a skin infection that occurs around the nails.
Causes Return to top
Paronychia is fairly common. It is usually caused by injury to the area -- for example, from biting off or picking a hangnail or from trimming or pushing back the cuticle.
A bacterial and fungal infection may occur at the same time.
Fungal paronychia may be seen in persons with a fungal nail infection. It is also common among persons with diabetes and those who have their hands in water for long periods of time.
Symptoms Return to top
The 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 occur 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.
Exams and Tests Return to top
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.
Treatment Return to top
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 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's paint.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Paronychia usually responds well to treatment. However, fungal infections may last for several months.
Possible Complications Return to top
Complications are rare, but may include:
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if:
Prevention Return to top
To prevent paronychia:
To minimize the risk of damage to the nails:
References Return to top
Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2004.Update Date: 4/17/2009 Updated by: Michael Lehrer, MD, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.