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Paronychia (Nail Infection) (cont.)

What Is the Medical Treatment for a Paronychia (Nail Infection)?

If an abscess (pus pocket) has formed, the recommended treatment is to drain the patient's abscess by doing an incision and drainage procedure.

  • A doctor will most likely use a medication (such as lidocaine) to numb the entire finger first and then will open the abscess using a surgical knife (scalpel).
  • Sometimes packing called a wick is placed in the abscess to allow it to continue to drain when one goes home and to keep it from closing up and reforming the abscess. The packing is usually left in for 24-48 hours.
  • In extreme cases, the infection can move under the patient's fingernail and may need partial or complete nail removal. Antibiotic treatment are usually not necessary unless there is extensive infection spreading onto the digit.
  • A doctor may or may not take a culture of the drainage to check for the type of bacteria involved in the infection.
  • After a doctor has drained the paronychia, warm soaks are still recommended. Usually, medications such as antibiotics are only prescribed if the infection involves more of the finger than around the nail bed. Sometimes a topic antibiotic, such as Bacitracin, is applied. It is important to follow up with your doctor in 24-48 hours after treatment to be sure that the infection is healing properly.

What Follow-up Is Needed After Treatment of a Paronychia?

  • Warm soaks
  • Follow-up appointment for removal of the wick (if placed)

Is It Possible to Prevent a Paronychia?

  • Avoid fingernail biting.
  • Wear rubber gloves if engaging in frequent hand washing or moisture-type exposure.
  • Control chronic illnesses, such as diabetes.
  • Wash hands frequently, especially if working in dirt, carpentry, or any job where the hands get soiled and have the potential for cuts and scrapes.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017

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Paronychia »

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

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