What Is Paronychia?
Paronychia is one of the most common infections affecting the hand, it is a type of bacterial or yeast infection of the skin, and it is present around the edges of the fingernails and toenails. The human body often hosts a variety of fungi and bacteria which live on the nails, outer skin, and hair. They also include yeast-like fungi such as Candida, which causes Paronychia. When the skin around the nail is damaged these bacteria enters the skin causing infections which is called Paronychia.
Types of Paronychia
Paronychia is of two types depending on the onset and healing.
Acute Paronychia: Paronychia which demonstrates sudden onset and lasts for a few hours or a day or two, is called acute Paronychia.
Chronic Paronychia: The infection having a slow onset and lasting for several weeks (6-7 weeks) is referred to as chronic Paronychia. Acute Paronychia does not spread deep and healing is faster whereas chronic Paronychia may involve several days to weeks. Normally Paronychia is not a severe form of infection, but it may progress to severe infection involving the entire finger or toe.
Common Causes Of Paronychia
Staphylococcus aureus and streptococcus pyogenes are the common bacteria which are often responsible for Paronychia, they usually enter the skin when the skin around the nail is damaged. The skin may be damaged because of nail-biting, dishwashing, chemical irritants, manicures, excessive exposure to moisture, ingrown nails, finger sucking, and nutritional deficiency . Chronic Paronychia is caused by a recurrent fungal infection. Usually, there is no major risk involved in Paronychia except nail trimming, mild trauma to the nail, or compromise in work where hand and toe are exposed to water or other solvents.
Paronychia is usually a multifactorial inflammatory reaction, the repeated infection may lead to fibrosis of the proximal area of the nail fold.
Paronychia is always easily treatable and it can occur to anyone at any age but it has been noticed that Paronychia is more common in people with diabetes, people who are involved in cleaning jobs propelling them to keep their hands wet for longer hours. People with pre-existing health conditions such as dermatitis and people with a compromised immune system are also more prone to Paronychia.
Signs And Symptoms Of Paronychia
Initially, a Paronychia presents with swelling, pain, discomfort, and redness around the nail. The affected area is sore and the person may experience tenderness to touch, the abscess may be present resulting in the yellow or green color of skin. The nail may also be damaged and deformed because of the infection, this may cause the nail to separate from the nail bed.
Treatment Options And Home Remedies For Paronychia
Treatment options of Paronychia vary according to the severity of the infection. Mild and acute infection may be treated with home care which involves soaking fingers or toe in warm water for 10 -15 minutes, about 3 – 4 tim es daily. Any antibacterial solution can also be mixed with warm water.
Antibiotics are often prescribed in case of severe and chronic infection. Antibiotics should always be consumed under the recommendation of a doctor only. Avoid any form of self-medication. When the infection is because of fungi, antifungal medication is prescribed, which may require weeks to months for complete healing. Topical steroid creams are also prescribed and they have been found effective in the treatment of chronic Paronychia.
It is vital to keep your hands dry and clean to avoid any exposure to germs and further infection. It better to seek medical care at the initial stage, this will avoid severe infection resulting in the spreading of infection to the entire finger or nail. The abscess should always be immediately drained by a doctor. It is always advised not to attempt incising the abscess at home. When deep tissues are affected it may lead to a severe infection called a felon. Serious infection may also cause fever and chills and such a condition should not be neglected and one should immediately seek medical intervention.
In the case of pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, dermatitis or weak immune system doctor may require a sample of the pus from the abscess. This will help in identifying whether it is bacteria or fungi responsible for Paronychia.
Risk of developing Paronychia can be reduced by following the below-mentioned precautions
- Always moisturize your hands after washing your hand
- Avoid biting and chewing the nails and the skin around the nails
- Be careful while cutting the nails and any damage to the skin around the nail or the nail bed
- Always maintain proper hand hygiene, keep your nails clean
- Avoid soaking your hands for long hours in the water
- Avoid exposure from any irritants
To summarize, it is vital to take good care of your hands and nails because hand hygiene is the cornerstone to prevent Paronychia.
Dr Reena Prajapat is a dentist, she post graduated in hospital management from Apollo Institute of hospital Administration, Hyderabad. Her strong belief in natural and home remedies lead her to Pursue bachelor in naturopathy.