nail infection

What is paronychia?

Paronychia is an infection of the skin that surrounds a fingernail. The infected tissue can be tender and painful with swelling.

What causes paronychia?

Staphylococci bacteria are the most common culprit in acute paronychia followed by Streptococcus. Chronic paronychia tends to be caused by a fungus rather than a bacterium.

How does paronychia occur?

Splitting or cracking a nail, aggressively trimming your nails, or a trauma to the nail (such as getting the nail trapped and squeezed between 2 surfaces, or smashed by a heavy object such as a hammer), can create a way for bacteria to enter and cause an infection. This type of paronychia is referred to as “acute paronychia.”

People who have jobs that frequently expose their hands to irritants, solvents, or acrylics, or require their hands to be immersed in water are at increased risk of chronic paronychia. Dishwasher, bartender, janitor, and gardener are such occupations. People with chronically dry skin, eczema or a history of contact dermatitis, and those who bite their nails are also at greater risk. Persons with diabetes are more prone to nail infection than those without diabetes. Diseases that compromise the immune system can also predispose persons to paronychia.