Paronychia is a fairly common infection of the tissue surrounding the fingernail. It can be caused by bacteria and less commonly, fungus. Sometimes the two combine is a more complex infection.
Paronychia affects folds of the nail+ especially the part next to the base of the nail. It can affect hand nails and to enails, sometimes both at the same time.
The first symptom of paronychia is pain in the affected finger. Other symptoms like redness and swelling, follow quickly.
In most cases this condition can be successfully treated at home. Only severe cases requires medical attention.
There are two forms of paronychia- acute and chronic.
Acute paronychia is usually caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. It develops very quickly, as soon as a few hours upon contraction of the bacteria. The nail fold becomes painful, red and swollen. The nail may look discolored due to the collection of puss underneath its surface. The puss is usually yellow or golden. In some cases, armpit glands tend to swollen as a reaction to the infection. Paronychia can be accompanied by fever, although rarely.
In mild and normal cases paronychia is effectively treated with antibiotic creams and sometimes with oral antibiotics, such as Amoxicillin. Sometimes the puss may stay trapped under the nail or skin, forming an abscess that needs to be drained and this requires professional treatment by a doctor.
Chronic paronychia is somewhat more serious that the acute form. It develops much more slowly. It is not uncommon for chronic paronychia to affect first one nail and then spread to others. The nail fold may swollen more and rise prominently from the nail. The puss may be of a different color- yellow, white or green. In most cases chronic paronychia is caused by a combination of bacteria and fungus.
Chronic paronychia commonly affects people whose hands are wet most of the time, because they are a perfect environment for bacteria and yeast growth. This category of people includes hairdressers, bartenders, nurses or laundry workers.
People who have diabetes or blood circulation problems are more prone to paronychia than others.
It is very important to keep the hands and feet dry at all times. For people whose job requires working with water and who often get their hands wet it is recommended to wear a pair of cotton gloves underneath another pair of protective rubber gloves. It is also necessary to wash the hands frequently using an antiseptic or antibacterial soap.
The treatment may include antifungal creams and ointments and it usually lasts for several months. The new, healthy nail takes about a year to grow.