What is Paronychia?

Redness and swelling around the nail can often indicate that infection, or paronychia, is present. This condition can be caused by bacteria and/or fungus invading the soft tissues around the nail and should not be ignored.

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There are two types of paronychia infections: acute and chronic. Acute infections are quick to arise and are more likely to occur in fingernails, while chronic infections occur gradually and typically affect the toenails.

Causes of Paronychia

  • Poor nail cutting technique
  • Ingrown nails
  • Excessive pushing back of the cuticles
  • Blunt or repetitive trauma to the nail
  • Biting or picking hangnails
  • Constant exposure to moisture

Paronychia can present slowly and last for weeks or show up suddenly and last for only a few days depending on the fundamental cause of infection. There is no clear correlation between speed or duration of the infection.

What Can My Podiatrist Do?

Cases of mild infection can be handled with home remedies such as warm water soaks or antiseptic creams. However, if the infection does not resolve, or seems to be getting worse, visit a podiatrist for a proper diagnosis. They will be able to determine the exact cause of infection and prescribe the appropriate solution.

Chronic paronychia infections lasting longer than 6 weeks can become severe, and spread into the soft tissues of the foot or form abscesses. If an infection is left unaddressed, repeated inflammation and compromised cuticle regeneration can result in a partial or complete loss of the nail.

How Do You Address Paronychia?

Podiatric intervention for Paronychia often involves a targeted approach to destroy the fungal and bacterial infections. There is little to no pain, minimal impact on the appearance of the nail and surrounding skin, and a low rate of recurrence. However, if non-invasive approaches prove ineffective, a minor nail surgery may be necessary to address any underlying toenail deformities.

How to Prevent Paronychia (Skin Infection Around the Nails)?

Hygiene is key to keeping paronychia at bay, here are some simple tips:

  • Change and wash your socks daily after wearing
  • Keep your feet dry
  • Avoid picking/biting your nails or the surrounding skin
  • Avoid pushing your cuticles back
  • Reduce exposure to water and wet environments
  • Attend to painful nails and skin immediately
  • Avoid repetitive trauma to the nail plate

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Common Symptoms

Redness of the skin around your nail
Tenderness of the skin around your nail
Pus-filled blisters around the nail
Changes in nail shape, colour, or texture
Detachment or lifting of the nail from the nail bed

How It Looks Like

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A job well done by Ms Ari on the toenail after months of discomfort. ECP thank you.

Lutfi Emir

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A lower limb specialist, such as a podiatrist, will be able to perform a thorough foot assessment using diagnostic tools, such as a musculoskeletal diagnostic ultrasound to determine the source of your foot pain. If surgery is required, your podiatrist will refer you to a trusted foot and ankle doctor for surgical solutions.

A thorough assessment

Immobilising the area with splints

Utilising technological therapies

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