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Infection Surrounding the Nail  
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Definition  

Paronychia is inflammation or infection of the skin that surrounds a fingernail or toenail.

Treatment depends on whether the paronychia is acute or chronic.

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Causes  

Paronychia is caused by bacteria or fungi that enter damaged skin. Damaged skin can be from torn cuticles, cuts, or cracks.

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Risk Factors  

Factors that may increase your chance of paronychia include:

  • Diabetes
  • Work that requires frequent exposure to chemical solvents or water, including food service, cleaning, dentistry, bartending, hairdressing, and nursing
  • Habitual nail-biting
  • Overly aggressive manicuring
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Symptoms  

Paronychia may cause:

  • Redness and swelling of the skin around the nail
  • Pus formation near the nail
  • Pain and tenderness to the touch
  • Discoloration or ridging of the nail
  • Absence of the cuticle
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Diagnosis  

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. In most cases, paronychia can be seen on examination. If you have an abscess, your doctor may take a sample of the pus to identify the specific cause of the infection.

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Treatment  

Treatments are different for acute and chronic paronychia.

Acute 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.

In most cases, this type of paronychia heals within 5-10 days. If your condition does not improve, or is severe, your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotic medication. 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