Factors that may increase your chances of paronychia include:
- Suppressed immune system
- Work that requires frequent exposure to chemical solvents or water, including food service, cleaning, dentistry, bartending, hairdressing, and nursing
- Habitual nail-biting or picking and finger sucking
- Overly aggressive manicuring
- Ingrown nail
Treatments are different for acute and chronic paronychia.
A mild case of acute paronychia is usually caused by bacteria. Minor swelling or redness near the nail may be treated by soaking the affected nail in warm water. This treatment can be repeated 2-4 times daily, for 15 minutes at a time.Topical antibiotics can be used on the area between soaks. In most cases, this type of paronychia heals within 5-10 days.
In cases where a build up of pus is suspected, your doctor may also cut the area with a scalpel to drain it. It is possible that your doctor will need to remove part of the nail. If your condition does not improve, or is severe, your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotic medication.
Since some chronic cases might be caused by fungi, your doctor may give you an topical antifungal medication. It may be given in a liquid form that you apply directly to the infected area.
Chronic paronychia may also be caused by a mixed bacterial infection, which can be treated with antibiotics. You may need to take the medication for several weeks. Some dermatologists believe that chronic paronychia is often caused by inflammation rather than by either bacterial or fungal infections. For such non-infectious paronychia, the use of cortisone creams can be helpful.
Whatever treatment is prescribed, it is important to keep the skin clean and dry. It is also important to avoid getting irritating substances, such as strong cleaners or certain foods, on the area. Surgery may be recommended in some cases of chronic paronychia that do not respond to other treatments.
Symptoms may subside with treatment. However, permanent damage to the nail or surrounding tissue sometimes results.
To help reduce your chances of paronychia:
- Keep your hands and feet clean and dry. Apply moisturizing lotion after hand washing.
- Wear rubber gloves if your hands are routinely exposed to water or chemicals.
- Avoid biting or picking your nails.
- Avoid cutting, pulling, or tearing your cuticles.
- Avoid artificial nails, vigorous manicures, or treatments that remove the cuticles.
- If you have diabetes, maintain your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. Talk to your doctor about proper foot care.
- Practice proper hygiene. Do not share bathroom supplies.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
Copyright © EBSCO Information Services
All rights reserved.
American Academy of Dermatology https://www.aad.org
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases https://www.niams.nih.gov
Canadian Dermatology Association https://dermatology.ca
Health Canada https://www.canada.ca
Paronychia. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/paronychia.html. Updated January 2015. Accessed August 18, 2017.
Paronychia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115236/Paronychia . Updated August 11, 2017. Accessed August 18, 2017.
Leggit J. Acute and chronic paronychia. Am Fam Physician. 2017;96(1):44-51.