Paronychia

Definition

Paronychia is a skin infection that occurs around the nails.

Causes

Paronychia is common. It is from injury to the area, such as biting off or picking a hangnail or from trimming or pushing back the cuticle.

The infection is caused by:

A bacterial and fungal infection can occur at the same time.

Fungal paronychia may occur in people who:

Symptoms

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 cause 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.

If the infection spreads to the rest of the body, symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider 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

If you have bacterial paronychia, soaking your nail in warm water 2 or 3 times a day helps reduce swelling and pain.

Your provider may prescribe oral antibiotics. In severe cases, your provider may cut and drain the sore with a sharp instrument. Part of the nail may need to be removed.

If you have chronic fungal paronychia, your provider may prescribe antifungal medicine.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Paronychia often responds well to treatment. But, fungal infections may last for several months.

Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:

Prevention

To prevent paronychia:

To minimize the risk of damage to the nails:


Review Date: 5/2/2017
Reviewed By: David L. Swanson, MD, Vice Chair of Medical Dermatology, Associate Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Medical School, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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