Sometimes referred to as a nail fold infection, a paronychia is an infection that happens where the skin and nail are connected to your finger. Even the slightest cut in this area can become infected and grow into a case of paronychia. This infection is quite common and can lead to a more serious infection of the entire finger if left untreated. Although it's not necessarily life threatening, the damage to your finger could be quite painful.
A paronychia can easily be caused by simple environmental conditions. Although some occurrences of the affliction may go away on their own in a short amount of time, other infections may require regular medication in order to cure. Lasting conditions could require a more experienced approach from your physician.
Types of Paronychia
Although there are two types of paronychia, both have the same causes, symptoms, and treatments. The only real difference between the two is that one could last longer and be a repetitive occurrence based on environment.
- 1. Acute Paronychia – This variation is a short lived infection that can be caused by a variety of minor cuts that happen on your fingers or toes during a number of mundane instances. These usually last less than six weeks.
- 2. Chronic Paronychia – A chronic paronychia is one that lasts for longer than six weeks and can be reoccurring depending on the environment you are subjected to. Instances of constant moisture of the fingers or, more commonly, toes can prevent paronychia from healing and will assist in the growth of the fungus that is causing the infection in the first place.
Causes of Paronychia
An affliction of paronychia can be easily created by simple environmental conditions. It is through the simplicity of creation that makes this infection a very common occurrence in people of any age. Regardless of preparations one may take, this affliction can be created by instances that many may not consider.
- 1. Washing Dishes – As constant exposure to liquid weakens the cuticle and areas around the finger, the slightest nick of the skin can be enough to allow fungus and/or bacteria to enter the area and cause a paronychia infection. This happens quite often given the nature of washing utensils such as forks and knives. This is aside from the dangers of washing dishes as glass could break within the water.
- 2. Thumb Sucking – Sucking ones thumb has been known to cause paronychia infections. Regardless of how often you rinse your mouth out with Listerine, mouths are constantly busy with bacteria. Getting the slightest amount of bacteria wedge between the skin of the finger and the nail itself could be a perfect breading ground to allow it to spread.
- 3. Nail Biting – Those who are constant nail-biters are often candidates for paronychia. As it doesn't take much damage between the nail and finger in order to create the perfect situation for this affliction, nail-biters could inadvertently be giving themselves this form of infection.
- 4. Other Trauma – Essentially, any trauma between the nail and finger can cause this infection to persist. As our fingers and toes are required in a great amount of activity throughout the day, the odds are great that at some point you will at least experience a minor version of a paronychia just from daily chores.
Symptoms of a Paronychia
The actual symptoms of a paronychia are fairly easy to tell, even to those who don't have medical degrees. There is very little that this affliction can be mistaken for and anyone who has experienced the painfulness of the situation knows exactly what the symptoms are. However, some may not be aware at some of the symptoms that an untreated case of paronychia can create.
- 1. Redness – Like most other infections, the area of your finger near the fingernail will become discolored and red. Depending on the stage and development of the infection, this may not be painful to the touch – yet.
- 2. Soreness – As the bacteria and/or fungus spreads throughout the area of your finger, it will become sore to the touch. Advanced stages of paronychia could become painful regardless of touch and could prevent you from using that finger for regular daily activities. For instance, using a pen with an advanced paronychia on your index finger may become an extremely painful activity.
- 3. Pus – In some of the more serious infections, pus will begin to be present in the area that is infected. If the area of pus is large in size, it could be a prelude to a much more serious condition that could infect your entire finger as a whole.
Treatments of a Paronychia
The treatment for a paronychia infection could become dependent on how the infection started in the first place. Although keeping your hands and feet as clean as possible is a good way to keep the affliction from happening in the first place, knowing what kind of infection you have will determine the best course of action.
- 1. Cleaning – Essentially, a bacterial infection causing paronychia can be treated as any other infection. This could entail cleaning the afflicted area regularly and/or applying hot water to the area several times per day in order to help reduce swelling and soreness.
- 2. Bacterial – If the infection has developed due to a bacterial infection, your physician could prescribe an anti-bacterial agent in order to heal the area. Antibiotics could include creams and/or pills depending on the extent of the infection.
- 3. Fungal – What works for bacterial removal doesn't always work the same for a fungal infection. In this case, your physician could prescribe an anti-fungal cream in order to help heal the area.
- 4. Minor Operation – For areas that are seriously infected, your physician may be inclined to cut open the afflicted area and drain the pus prior to medications. Pus can absorb medications which can cause the healing process to take even longer. Removing it can help the medication reach its intended target in order to facilitate healing.
Although you may not die from a sever case of paronychia, it can lead to a great deal pain if left untreated. Normally, treatment of a minor affliction is accommodated without the person realizing that there was a risk. Keep your hands and feet clean regardless of the situation and you could ultimately prevent yourself from experiencing a painful instance of this affliction. This is one of those cases where soap and water can go a long way to keeping your body healthy and pain free.