What can I do about my Nail Infection (Paronychia)?

by | Ask The Intern

What you need to know about your Nail Infection (Paronychia)

Paronychia (nail infection) causes throbbing pain, redness, warmth and swelling in the skin around a nail. In some cases, a small collection of pus forms under the skin next to the nail, or underneath the nail itself. Often, only one nail is affected. Some paronychia can be helped by a telemedicine visit. You may need an appointment to be seen in person at some point in the treatment.

What are the symptoms of a Nail Infection to watch out for?

  • Throbbing, redness, warmth and swelling are most common
  • Fever, chills or sweats are less common and more worrisome
  • Collection of pus under the skin may be present
  • “boggy” skin that is soft and swollen around the nail

How did I get a Paronychia (Nail Infection)?

The cause can be biting the nails, injury by working with your hand preparing food, working on trimming the nails with unsterilized equipment or manicures. It is common that you will have milder symptoms (tenderness, mild redness, minimal swelling) that last for seven days or more. The nail infection can worsen into abscess, causing an infection inside the skin around the nail and expanding into a larger infection or abscess (pus). Usually the pus will NOT need to be drained to get complete relief or treatment. Telemedicine is a great place to get started on an early look at your infection. Quite often uploaded photos of high quality can help the Doctor treat you by telemedicine.

How can we get over this nail infection fast?

Doctors may help treat your paronychia or nail infection with antibiotics. This infection can be painful and relief may be found with anti-inflammatory medication (Advil, Ibuprofen) and acetaminophen (Tylenol). You can begin treating yourself by soaking the finger or toe in warm water with 50% Hydrogen Peroxide. Do this for at least 15 minutes, two to four times a day. Elevate the injured fingers by putting your hand up over your heart. You can apply some antibiotic ointment and use good hygiene (clean hands and instruments).

With proper treatment, the outlook is usually very good. In most cases, an acute paronychia heals within 5 to 10 days with no permanent damage to the nail. Rarely, very severe cases may progress to osteomyelitis (a bone infection) of the finger. You should visit the Doctor a soon as possible and in other severe cases, you may need to go to the Urgent Care or Emergency Room.



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