Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What is Paronychia?"
I've had this infection on my thumbnail that I broke down and researched - it seems like all signs point to 'paronychia', but I don't understand what that is. How can the same condition be caused by bacteria or fungus? How do I know which kind mine is and how to treat it?
Paronychia refers to inflammation of proximal and lateral fingernail folds. If you are experiencing this condition, I encourage you to talk to your primary doctor as this can be easily treated, but occasionally requires a medical procedure. Paronychia refers to inflammation. There are many things that can cause the inflammation: Acute paronychia is often caused by bacteria. Acute means it nail edges become red, hot and painful over days. It is normally the bacteria that like on the skin that somehow invade. It can occasionally form a ball of infection (or abscess) that requires lancing (opened with a scalpel). In general, antibiotic creams can treat acute paronychia that does not have an associated abscess. Rarely people need antibiotics pills. Chronic paronychia is inflammation that lasts weeks or months. Originally people thought the infection was caused by a fungal infection, however nowadays it is thought that it is simply an allergic skin reaction. Therefore treatment includes involves avoiding allergens (like specific soaps). Also important are topical agents like steroid creams. Some creams have steroids + antifungals. This is a longstanding inflammation which rarely becomes very painful or warm. Talk with your doctor. He or she can help you with diagnosis and or treatment. Good luck!
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