Paronychia is a skin infection around the fingernails or toenails. The skin becomes irritated or injured, often from picking at the nails, pulling hangnails, or biting on fingers. Bacteria or a fungus introduced to the irritated or injured area can cause an infection of the skin at the base (cuticle) or up the sides of the nail. There are two types of paronychia:
- Acute Paronychia – comes on suddenly, gets worse quickly and may not last long; it usually occurs on fingers and is often bacterial
- Chronic Paronychia – lasts longer and may occur on your fingers or toes; it either doesn’t get better or keeps coming back. Chronic paronychia is usually caused by a fungal infection.
Paronychia can happen in adults and children and usually begins with pain, swelling and redness around the base or the sides of the nail. Acute paronychia can cause abscesses to form.
Chronic paronychia may cause the cuticle to break down and may eventually cause the nail to separate from the skin. The nail may become thick, hard, and deformed, as well.
Nail infections should be examined to determine the best treatment to keep the condition from worsening and to help the nail grow normally.