Paronychia – Nail Infection

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What is Paronychia?

Paronychia is a nail disease. It is a nail fold inflammation. This means that it affects the tissues around the nail. This illness can impact both fingernails and toenails. Sometimes, it covers several fingers at once. 

The culprits of inflammation are bacteria. It is mainly Staphylococcus aureus or streptococci. We distinguish acute and chronic paronychia.

The acute diseaseTrusted Source usually impacts the nail shaft. It originates after infection with Staphylococcus aureus. Another cause is gram-negative bacteria. HSV, or herpes simplex virus, is much less common. This condition is called herpetic whitlow. It develops after local infection of the fingers' skin.

Chronic paronychiaTrusted Source doesn't have an abrupt beginning. Fungi, especially Candida albicans, are responsible for their development. Bacterial infections may accompany this condition. It is Staphylococcus aureus or Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In this form of disease, the nails develop a brownish shade.

What are the causes of paronychia?

Paronychia is favored primarily by injuriesTrusted Source to the epidermis and nail shaft. They occur when cutting nails, the so-called cutting cuticles, during household or renovation work. Paronychia can also be induced by biting the nails. It also happens to individuals who regularly have moist feet or hands. The condition is also favored by inadequate hygiene and ingrown nails.

All these causes lead to micro-injuries of the skin and the formation of invisible wounds, through which pathogenic microorganismsTrusted Source can effortlessly infiltrate.

However, there are several more severe causes of paronychia. Endocrine diseasesTrusted Source are one of the main factors contributing to its development. Additionally, taking immunosuppressive medication and being overweightTrusted Source can also increase the chance of developing this condition.

Paronychia – symptoms

SymptomsTrusted Source of acute and chronic forms of this disease are:

How to diagnose paronychia?

The diagnosisTrusted Source isn't challenging. Doctors can typically diagnose paronychia by examining the wound and listening to symptoms. In some cases, lab tests may be needed. They help to identify the type of infection and vulnerability to medicine.

How to treat paronychia?

With acute paronychiaTrusted Source, surgical debridement of the abscess is essential. A surgeon may use a drain and prescribe antibiotics for a large abscess. Viral abscesses do not require incision.

However, prompt management of antiviral drugs is necessary. Chronic paronychiaTrusted Source demands taking antibiotics and antifungal medications. The treatment may be burdensome. It usually lasts many weeks. Sometimes, it may be even several months.

For redness and swelling, try a warm compressTrusted Source. This method not only relieves inflammation. It also brings relief to the patient.

You can use the conditioner for damaged, brittle, split nails as a prophylactic and supportive treatment.

Paronychia – what are the complications?

In any case, paronychia should be treated to prevent complicationsTrusted Source. Neglecting this condition may cause the infection to extend to the tissues under the nail plate. Then, there will be the destruction of the nail plate. Also, abscesses may form. The consequence of this is the appearance of thickening on the plate and its multiple discolorations.

Paronychia – What does prophylaxis look like?

Prevention of paronychiaTrusted Source is not challenging. Just learn the accurate practices to control infection.

For all housework, repairs, or gardening, wear gloves. They will shield your fingers and hands. Do this to guard them against injuries. People whose work demands ongoing hand soaking should also get used to functioning with gloves. The softened skin won't be exposed to the attack of microorganisms.

Paronychia - Nail Infection: What Is It, Symptoms, Causes, and More

Instruct kids to wash their hands repeatedly. We should also emphasize the importance of not biting the nails and avoiding the temptation of tearing off the cuticles. These habits can damage nail and skin health. And lead to infection.

Take care of nails, both those on the hands and feet. Leave it to specialists in beauty salons. Do not cut the cuticles on your own at home.

Disinfect the tools used for taking care of your nails. Remember to do it now and then. Each household member should have a personal nail kit. It is also significant to keep these devices to yourself. Using other individuals' staff may contribute to the transmission of disease.

After cleaning your feet and hands, conscientiously wipe the areas between your toes. If they remain moist, they can be a suitable place for the growth of microorganisms that will attack the different structures of your nails. People who have a problem with sweating should lubricate clean feet with antiperspirant creams.

Finally, any form of paronychia must be cured. The infection can extend to the nail matrix and underlying tissues if left untreated. Then, therapy is more challenging. It often demands the removal of all or part of the nail.

Paronychia – how to do a healing bath?

Soak the affected area in warm waterTrusted Source. You can do it several times a day. The bath should be warm but not too hot.

If your skin is damaged, add salt or saline to warm water. For minor swelling and redness, warm water alone works. Avoid using alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on wounds. Those products slow down the healing process.

Soak the impacted area in warm water for 20 minutes. Do it 3-4 times a day. Replace the water if it cools down. Warm water improves blood flow and fights infection, helping acute paronychia heal in a few days.

Finally, take a clean towel and dry your fingers or toes. In mild cases with damaged skin, no bandage is required. What if there is damage to the skin? Apply a thin layer of antibacterial ointment. Do it with a cotton swab. And then cover it with a bandage.

Discard the swab after use. Don’t dip it into the container if you touch the skin. Cover the damaged skin, especially if you intend to work with your hands or expose them to germs and microbes. However, remember to change and remove the bandage earlier, e.g., when you intend to wash your hands or feet or shower.

But remember to consult your doctor. Do it before any home treatment.

What are other alarming symptoms?

We are more conscious of the significance of prophylaxis and early diagnosis of probable conditions. But we often neglect the most straightforward method available to everyone – observation. We perform prophylactic blood and urine tests and keep an eye on the dates of screening tests and ultrasound examinations, but we forget about nails.

Let's not underestimate their appearance. The condition of your nails can reveal more about your health than you suspect. The presence of abnormalities is usually indicated by these signs appearing early on.

The appearance and condition of the nailsTrusted Source can indicate the development of many systemic diseases before other ailments and symptoms appear. If you observe any of the changes described below, be vigilant and consult a specialist.

Paronychia - Nail Infection: What Is It, Symptoms, Causes, and More

Blue or purple nails

They can happen incidentally to anyone who has cooled the body too much. Most often, we notice this sign when we are freezing. It usually happens during winter.

What if your nail color changes without exposure to cold? Seek professional advice. It is a common sign of problems with blood circulationTrusted Source. This symptom may also occur with severe poisoning. Also, it is a sign of micronutrient deficiencyTrusted Source.

Gray discoloration

Gray changes appearing on the nails are a typical symptom of poisoningTrusted Source with some metals. They can also occur when taking specific remedies. This symptom is also characteristic of Raynaud's disease and arises in the mechanism of circulatory disorders. The second serious condition that can manifest itself as gray discoloration on the nails is copper metabolism disorder in Wilson disease.

A black or brown spot under the nail

The dark black-brown patch under the nail is often the result of trauma. And it is a common hematomaTrusted Source. Unfortunately, if such a suspicious stain appears under your nail, and there is no logical reason for it, make an appointment with a doctor. What if there is a black spot on the nail that doesn't move up? It could indicate malignant melanoma.

Brittle nails

BrittleTrusted Source, weak, and split nails can be a symptom of mineral deficiency in the body. Most often, it is because of insufficient magnesium levels. It happens that the damage is mechanical and caused by dry hands. Fragility and poor state of the nails, however, may be a symptom of hormonal disorders.


OnycholysisTrusted Source, i.e., detachment of the nail plate from the bed, is an unpleasant ailment. The nail begins to move away from the side. That is because air accumulates under the plate. The plaque takes on a whitish color. The additional bacteria overgrowth may change the color. It can have a yellowish-gray or black shade.

Changes in the nail plate, such as a descending nail, can often be caused by a fungal infection or injury. However, such changes may also indicate underlying health issues like problems with the thyroid gland, diabetes, or iron deficiency.

Stripes, grooves, and furrows on the nails

This appearance of nails is most common in older people. However, if you are not elderly and your nail plate shows apparent stripe-like irregularitiesTrusted Source, it most often means a vitamin deficiency. They can also be a souvenir after an unprofessional manicure that damaged the nail plate. The furrows may cause gastrointestinal diseases or circulatory disorders if they are very pronounced and immensely profound.

Convex nails

You probably suffer from clubbing if your nail plate resembles an inverted spoon. It suggests health problems resulting from hypoxia. It may indicate developing diseases of the lungs, bronchi, and liver.

Concave nails

If your fingernails have become hollow, you probably have koilonychiaTrusted Source. This symptom is the opposite of clubbing. What if the nails' edges rise? Do not run to the beautician. You should check the level of iron.

Black lines on the nails

Black lines resembling splinters stuck in a fingernail should seriously alarm you. This phenomenon is a symptom of endocarditisTrusted Source. Do not wait for other symptoms; consult a doctor immediately and exclude the threat.

Half-and-half nails

If you've noticed that your fingernails are halfTrusted Source white and half brown or red, check if your kidneys are working correctly. Such an unexpected ombre effect can be a manifestation of severe disorders.

White or yellow streaks on the nails

It is a classic and standard symptom of ringwormTrusted Source. Whitish or yellow streaks and the accompanying change in the shape of the nail may be a symptom of a fungal infection. Do not underestimate these changes. Nail fungus is a condition that is challenging to treat. Moreover, it spreads very effortlessly. Start your treatment soon. In this way, you will achieve more promising outcomes.

How to improve nail condition? Proper diet

Once you've identified the causes of breakage, you should create a whole new menuTrusted Source. A diet rich in zinc and iron strengthens nails. It also improves the appearance of skin and hair. You will also need:

You will find all this in sunflower and pumpkin seeds. You can buy shelled seeds because they are just as healthy as fresh ones. Add them to oatmeal, roast them in a pan, or eat them in handfuls. Also helpful will be sesame and poppy seeds.

Add dried fruit to your menu. You can get B vitamins by eating grains, eggs, and legumes. Drink cocoa because it is an extraordinary source of magnesium and iron. For dinner, choose lean meat or fatty fish.

Also, make sure you drink enough fluids (two liters a day), as your nails can become dry and break.

How to improve nail condition? Proper manicure

Regular visits to the manicurist will help keep your hands neat and well-groomed. But occasionally, you have to take care of it yourself. Remember a few rules:

Paronychia - Nail Infection: What Is It, Symptoms, Causes, and More

MoisturizingTrusted Source is very significant. Thanks to the diet, you will do it from the inside, and thanks to cosmetics from the outside. Any oils and moisturizing creams will be helpful. Especially use ones in small tubes. So that you always have them with you.

How to improve nail condition? Protect your hands and nails

Make friends with glovesTrusted Source. Immediately reach for warm gloves to protect your nails when the temperature drops. Don't freeze with your phone in your hand. Choose headphones with a speaker.

Be sure to wear gloves made of latex or other material intended to come into contact with detergents when cleaning and washing up. If you handle chemicals and corrosive substances daily, it is important to take the same precautions.


August 24, 2023
12 minutes read

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