Paronychia is an infection commonly affecting the skin around a finger or toe. It happens when bacteria, fungus, or yeast enter into any break in the nail area, such as a cut or hangnail, resulting in redness and pain plus swelling in more severe cases, even forming abscesses that require medical attention. The most common cause of paronychia is Staphylococcus (also known as staph). Bacteria can enter the body through cuts and scrapes around the nail bed and cause an infection.
Fungal infections are also possible if dirt or fungus becomes trapped under the nail bed. Yeast infections may occur if there is an imbalance in the body’s natural flora levels due to conditions such as diabetes or excessive antibiotic use. Paronychia can range from mild to severe, and the treatment is dependent on its severity. Mild cases are typically best managed with warm compresses at home as well as oral antibiotics for reducing swelling and treating infection. Severe cases may require incision of any abscess that has formed either in a medical or sterile setting; additionally, antifungal medications may be prescribed to reduce the recurrence of symptoms caused by fungal infections.
With proper treatment, most cases are resolved within a few weeks. However, if left untreated, paronychia can cause long-term complications such as permanent scarring and deformation of skin tissue near the nail bed. Maintaining good hand and foot care is the most common method of preventing paronychia. However, there are some with certain conditions like diabetes who require additional help, such as routine monitoring of blood sugar control, as high sugar levels can increase the chance of developing an infection in the nail bed.