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What is Paronychia?

Paronychia is the bacterial, yeast or fungal infection of the skin folds around the nail bed. It is common to have multiple factors that predispose patients or lead to this type of this infection. A common start to this condition is a cut, fissure or break in the nail or nail bed with an exposed area. This can serve as a breeding ground for yeast (candida) as well as bacterial growth.

“It’s not only hang nails and chips,” claims Dr. Miriam Hanson, board-certified Dermatologist in Austin, Texas. “The truth is, a lot of the time it’s self-induced. Clipping cuticles when manicuring your nails is one of the biggest culprits for this condition.”

There are two types of Paronychia: Acute Paronychia and Chornic Paronychia.

Acute Paronychia

This infection is the infection of the area around the finger or toe, starting from the side of the nail. The process begins with a redness in the area, followed by swelling and pain. This infection happens very quickly, and lasts less than six weeks. This is usually caused by common tasks that cause damage to the nails or nail beds. “Often we find that patients have injured their nail or finger while washing dishes, or working in their yard, and it begins to show signs of infection,” states Dr. Adam Mamelak, a board certified Dermatologist in Austin, Texas.

Chronic Paronychia

Unlike Acute Paronychia, Chronic Paronychia are present for longer periods of time, and tend to be present for greater than six weeks. “This is often signified by the cuticle separating from the nail bed, leaving an area where  debris and bacteria can in-bed itself and lead to infections,” says Dr. Mamelak. This disease of the nail can be attributed to many usual tasks, but can also be linked to other skin condition, such as with contact dermatitis in the hands or feet. As with Acute Paronychia, there is redness, swelling, pain, and puss are possible symptoms. “This problem is common with swimmers, as they come into contact with chlorine, water, and tend to have issues with nail splits,” Dr. Mamelak notes.

Treatment for Paronychia

The treatment of Paronychia is decided by what the cause of the condition is. If there is no puss or pustule present, soaking the infected area multiple times per day is suggested. If this original treatment is not effective one could use an antiseptic soaking agent in addition to the water. The use of penicillin or other antibiotics can be helpful in killing the bacteria causing the issues. Topical ointment treatments can also be used to combat the effects of Paronyhcia, especially the inflammation in the surrounding skin. “More extreme cases might require a small surgical procedures to drain an abscess that has formed,” notes Dr. Mamelak.

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