4 Things You Need To Know About Paronychia

Paronychia is an infection of the skin and soft tissues around your toenails. Here are four things you need to know about this infection.

What are the signs of paronychia?

If you have paronychia, you may notice some or all of these symptoms:

  • Red skin around your nail;
  • Sore, swollen skin around your nail;
  • Pus or other fluids oozing out from underneath your nail;
  • Changes in the appearance of your nail, such as thickening or discoloration.

If you notice any of these changes, make sure to bring them to your podiatrist's attention right away.

What causes it?

Paronychia occurs when bacteria or fungi get underneath the edge of your nail, where your nail fold and nail plate meet. This can happen if you get a cut or scrape in the area, but exposure to moisture may also play a role. For example, wearing shoes that don't allow your feet to breathe or not changing your socks when they get wet may play a role in the development of this infection.

How serious is this infection?

One concern with this infection is that it has the potential to become chronic. The inflammation associated with the infection can pull your nail away from your skin and allow bacteria and fungi easier entry in the future. This may start a cycle of repetitive infections in the area.

If the infection is left untreated, it can progress into a more serious infection. The infection may spread into your bones (osteomyelitis) or into your tendons (tenosynovitis). These infections are serious, but as long as you get prompt treatment, these problems can be avoided.

Another concern is that some patients feel distressed by the appearance of their infected nail. The infection can lead to ridges or discoloration of the nail, and in some cases, the nail falls off. Studies have indicated that patients are generally more concerned with the appearance of the nail than the infection itself.

How do podiatrists treat it?

Your podiatrist will instruct you to avoid irritants that could make your infection worse. For example, if your shoes don't let your feet breathe, your podiatrist may recommend a more appropriate shoe.

You may also be given a prescription for a medicated cream. This cream may contain antibiotics, antifungals, or anti-inflammatories, depending on the cause of your paronychia.

If the skin around your toenails is red and swollen, you may have paronychia and should consider looking into local specialists and options, such as Orvitz Podiatry Clinic foot care.