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Paronychia What is it? An infection of the fold of skin surrounding a fingernail or toenail (nail fold) is called a paronychia.

The infection causes pain and swelling which may develop either suddenly (acute paronychia) or gradually over several months (chronic paronychia) depending on the underlying cause. One or more nails may be infected.

What are the causes? Acute paronychia is usually the result of a bacterial infection entering the nail fold through a cut or break in the skin.

Chronic paronychia is common among people such as cooks who repeatedly immerse their hands in water. The skin around the nail separates from the nail, softens, and becomes infected, usually by a yeast organism. A secondary bacterial infection may then occur resulting in acute paronychia.

What are the symptoms? Symptoms include pain and swelling on the side of the nail fold and a build-up of pus around the nail.

If acute paronychia is left untreated the nail may separate from the nail bed and fall away.

In cases of chronic paronychia there may be some discomfort and swelling but it doesn't produce a build-up of pus.

What's the treatment? Your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics for acute paronychia.

In severe cases pus may be drained under local anaesthesia.

Chronic paronychia may be treated with an over-the-counter cream containing an antifungal drug but if there's a secondary infection your doctor may prescribe stronger antifungals and oral antibiotics.

Acute paronychia often clears up in a few days with treatment. Chronic paronychia may take several weeks.

You should always dry your hands thoroughly after washing and wear cotton-lined rubber gloves when your hands are in water.

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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion Column
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 1, 2014
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