nail infection

What is nail infection (paronychia)?

A nail infection, or paronychia, is an infection of the skin that surrounds a fingernail. The infected tissue can be tender and painful with swelling. Paronychia is considered acute if it lasts less than 6 weeks, or chronic if it lasts longer.

What causes a nail infection (paronychia)?

Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria are the most common culprits in acute paronychia but there are other causes as well.

Chronic paronychia tends to be caused by repeated inflammation from irritants, moisture or allergens, and may involve multiple nails. Infection with fungus and bacteria may also occur. Paronychia may be seen in people with eczema or psoriasis, or as a side effect of a medication.

How does a nail infection (paronychia) occur?

Any trauma to the nail or skin surrounding the nail such as aggressively trimming or manicuring your nails can create a way for bacteria to enter and cause an infection. People who have jobs that frequently expose their hands to water or irritants such as chemicals used in washing dishes are at an increased risk of chronic paronychia. Persons with diabetes or diseases that compromise the immune system are more likely to develop infections.

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