A paronychia infection is an infection in the tissue around the fingernail. It may be due to bacteria invading a cut/crack in the skin or to trauma such as from pulling a hangnail, biting around one’s nail, or having frequent manicures. Sometimes, there is no identifiable cause. The symptoms of a paronychia infection include redness of the tissues surrounding the nail (most commonly near the base of the nail), pain, warmth, swelling, and possible drainage. A white-yellow-green material may build up under the nail or nail fold indicating the formation of pus.
Treatment of paronychia fingernail infections consists of warm water soaks, with or without soap or Epsom salt. This can help soften the tissues and facilitate drainage if a collection of pus is developing. Warm soaks can also decrease pain and increase blood flow to the area, helping the body fight infection. An over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen can also help relieve pain and inflammation.
When these measures fail to result in improvement in the paronychia fingernail infection, a visit to a qualified medical provider for possible oral antibiotics and possible drainage of the infection is recommended. If not properly treated, paronychia infections can result in chronic finger pain, inflammation, and nail problems. When symptoms of paronychia inflammation exist for more than several weeks, it may indicate the development of a fungal infection. In this situation, it would also be beneficial to be evaluated by an appropriate healthcare provider. Frequent hand washing, clipping a hangnail with a clean scissors or nail clipper (rather than pulling it), avoiding chronic moisture of the fingertips, and moisturizing dry skin with a hypoallergenic hand lotion may help prevent paronychia infections.
Raleigh Hand to Shoulder Center doctors are board certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgeons.