Paronychia is an infection of the skin around the fingernails
and toenails. Bacteria or a type of yeast called Candida cause this infection. Bacteria and yeast can even combine
into one infection.
Depending on the cause of the infection, paronychia may come
on slowly and last for weeks or show up suddenly and last for only one or two
days. The symptoms of paronychia are easy to spot and can usually be easily and
successfully treated with little or no damage to your skin and nails. Your
infection can become severe and even result in a partial or complete loss of
your nail if it’s not treated.
and Chronic Paronychia
Paronychia can be either acute or chronic depending on the
speed of onset, the duration, and the infecting agents.
An acute infection almost always occurs around the
fingernails and develops quickly. It’s usually the result of damage to the skin
around the nails from biting, hangnails, manicures, or other physical trauma. Staphylococcus bacteria are the most
likely infecting agent in the case of acute paronychia.
Chronic paronychia can occur on your fingers or toes, and it comes
on slowly. It lasts for several weeks and often comes back. It’s typically
caused by more than one infecting agent, often Candida yeast and a bacteria. It’s more common in people who are
constantly exposed to a moist environment.
Are the Symptoms of Paronychia?
The symptoms of both acute and chronic paronychia are very
similar. They’re largely distinguished from each other by the speed of onset
and the duration of the infection. Chronic infections come on slowly and last for
many weeks. Acute infections develop quickly and don’t last long. Both
infections have the following symptoms:
- redness of the skin around the nail
- tenderness of the skin around the nail
- pus-filled blisters
- changes in nail shape, color, or texture
- detachment of the nail
There are multiple causes of both acute and chronic
paronychia. The underlying cause of each is bacteria, Candida yeast, or a combination of the two agents.
A bacterial agent that’s introduced to the area around the
nail by some type of trauma typically causes an acute infection. This can be
from biting your nails or hangnails, being punctured by manicurist tools,
pushing down your cuticles too aggressively, and other similar types of
The underlying agent of infection in chronic paronychia is
most commonly Candida yeast, but it
can also be a bacteria. Because yeasts grow well in moist environments, this
infection is often caused by having your feet or hands in water too much of the
Is Paronychia Diagnosed?
In most cases, a doctor can diagnose paronychia simply by observing
Your doctor may send a sample of the tissue from your
infection to a lab if treatment doesn’t seem to be helping. This will determine
the exact infecting agent and will allow your doctor to prescribe the best
Is Paronychia Treated?
Home treatments are often very successful in treating mild
cases. You can soak the infected area in hot water several times per day and apply
antibiotic ointment. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to take by mouth
if the infection is more severe or if it isn’t responding to home treatments.
You may also need to have blisters or abscesses cut and drained of fluids to
relieve discomfort and speed healing.
Chronic paronychia is more difficult to treat. You’ll need
to see your doctor because home treatment isn’t likely to work. Your doctor will
probably prescribe an antifungal medication and advise you to keep the area
dry. In severe cases, you may need surgery to remove part of the nail.
Can Paronychia Be Prevented?
Good hygiene is important for preventing paronychia. Keep
your hands and feet clean to prevent bacteria from getting between your nails
and skin. Avoiding trauma caused by biting, manicures, or pedicures can also
help you prevent acute infections.
To prevent a chronic infection, you can avoid exposure to
water and wet environments and keep your hands and feet as dry as possible.
Is the Long-Term Outlook?
The outlook is good if you have a mild case of acute
paronychia. You can treat it successfully, and it’s unlikely to return. If you
let it go untreated for too long, the outlook is still good if you get medical
Chronic infection is likely to last for weeks or months. Treatment
should help it clear up.