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Paronychia (Nail Infection)

What Is a Paronychia (Nail Infection)?

An infection that develops along the edge of the fingernail or toenail is called a paronychia (pear-ah-NIK-ee-ah). It is the most common hand infection and, if left untreated, can progress to a more severe infection of the entire finger or toe.

What Causes a Paronychia?

Paronychias are most often caused by common skin bacteria (most commonly staphylococci bacteria) entering the skin around the nail that has been damaged by trauma, such as nail biting, finger sucking, dishwashing, or chemical irritants. Fungal infection also can be a cause of paronychia formation and should be considered especially in people with recurrent infection. Paronychia should not be confused with herpetic whitlow, which can form tiny pustules on the finger and is caused by a virus but is not typically located at the nail edge. Herpetic whitlow is not treated with an incision and drainage and therefore needs to be distinguished from a paronychia.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/11/2015

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Paronychia (Nail Infection) - Treatment

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Paronychia (Nail Infection) - Symptoms and Signs

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Paronychia Causes

Nail problems can also be caused by:

  • An injury to a nail.
  • Hangnails, which may lead to a minor infection next to your nails (paronychia), causing the skin around the nails to become swollen and tender.
  • Nail-biting, which can lead to fingertips that are red and sore and cuticles that bleed. Nail-biting also increases the chance of bacterial infections around your nail beds and in your mouth.



Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Paronychia »

A paronychia is a superficial infection of epithelium lateral to the nail plate.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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