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What is Paronychia? A quick look at a common nail condition.
Posted by Dr. Robert Levine

What is Paronychia? A quick look at a common nail condition.
Posted by Dr. Robert Levine on March 1, 2022

Have you ever had a hangnail? They can be irritating and painful and getting rid of them is an exercise in trying to avoid an infection. Especially when you experience a snag or tear, the hangnail can become the home to bacteria and cause a localized infection called paronychia.

What is paronychia?

Paronychia is inflammation of the skin around a finger or toenail and is usually due to a nail infection. This can result from trauma or irritation and is characterized by redness and swelling around fingers or toes, skin that is warm to the touch, and possibly pus that builds up under the skin.

It is possible with paronychia that you may develop a pus-filled abscess at the site of the hangnail or other broken skin. Left untreated, the nail may also grow in abnormal patterns like waves or ridges, become discolored, or even fall off.

What causes paronychia?

Bacteria are the most common cause of acute paronychia. They can enter your skin and cause paronychia through:

  • broken skin or hangnails
  • irritation from water or other chemicals
  • ingrown nails
  • trauma to the nail area, which can include irritation resulting from nail-biting, accidental injury, or even overuse of manicure and pedicure services,
  • certain medications, including some HIV and cancer medications

How is paronychia treated?

Home treatment

Some mild cases of paronychia can be treated at home by soaking the affected nail in warm water a few times a day, leaving them to soak for about 15 minutes at a time. This encourages the abscess to drain and the paronychia to start the healing process.

Medical treatment

If you don’t see any improvement after a few days of soaking in warm water and vinegar, you may want to see a doctor. Some infections may require antibiotics, and occasionally cases of paronychia will require other procedures, like draining the abscess.

How do I prevent paronychia?

If you want to avoid this painful infection, you can follow a few simple rules:

  • If you bite your nails, it’s time to break the habit! Nail-biting increases your risk.
  • Keep your nails trimmed, but not too short. Along the same vein, take extra care when trimming your cuticles, and don’t trim them too close to the nail.
  • If you work with chemicals in any capacity, wear gloves.
  • Make sure to moisturize your hands to prevent cracks that could attract bacteria.



Do you need help with paronychia or a similar condition? Reach out to Advanced Dermatology, and our skilled physicians will get you back to normal in no time! Contact us today for your free consultation.

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