Nail Discoloration and Infection

Hands | Dermatology | Nail Discoloration and Infection (Symptom)


Paronychia is an infection of the perionchyum, or the skin that hangs over the side of the nail. It is the most common hand infection. Paronychia is seen frequently in children as a result of nail biting and finger-sucking. Paronychia is divided into acute paronychia and chronic paronychia depending on the amount of time the infection has been present. Both acute and chronic infections start with a break in the epidermis.


Paronychias are most often caused by common skin bacteria entering the skin around the nail that has been damaged by trauma, such as nail biting, finger sucking, dishwashing, or chemical irritants.

An acute infection is associated with trauma to the skin such as a hangnail, ingrown nail, or nail-biting. The most common bacteria responsible is Staphylococcus aureus. Other bacteria that are less commonly involved are Streptococcus species and Pseudomonas species. A chronic infection is associated with repeated irritation such as exposure to detergents and water. Most chronic infections are caused by Candida albicans or other fungi.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Home care includes warm soaks in a mixture of warm water and liquid antibacterial soap three to four times daily for about 15 minutes. This soaking should be done at the first sign of redness around the nail. If an abscess (pus pocket) has formed, the recommended treatment is to drain the abscess by doing an incision and drainage procedure by a medical professional.


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