Cuticle infection, or paronychia, is the infection of the tissues surrounding the nail bed. Mostly innocuous, it commonly affects the sides or the base of the fingernail or toenail. There are a number of factors that can cause this infection. Often, the infection develops from an injury or wound close to the nail bed.
When the cuticle is damaged or injured, bacteria or fungi can invade the injured area and cause infection. Usually, injury to the skin around the nail, or any untreated wound close to the nail, facilitates the entry of these infectious agents, which eventually can result in this condition. Depending on the cause of infection, paronychia can be acute or chronic.
Acute paronychia is caused by bacteria, while chronic paronychia is caused by Candida and other species of fungi. Chronic infection can spread from one finger to the other, and can also be difficult to cure. But the question is, 'What causes damage to the cuticles in the first place?' Well, here's a list of factors that can result in damaged cuticles.
- Biting a hangnail
- Picking the skin near the nails
- Cutting or pushing the cuticles
- Prolonged exposure to water
- Use of chemicals like nail glue
- Aggressive manicuring
Paronychia can also be a result of diabetes, drug-induced immunosuppression, selenium toxicity, etc.
Acute paronychia develops all of a sudden, while chronic paronychia develops gradually. Their symptoms are similar, and are given below.
- Swelling of the cuticle and surrounding areas
- Redness and tenderness of the infected area
- Discoloration and thickening of the nail plate
- Distortion of the affected area
- Brittle nails
- Pus-filled blisters
- Painful nails
- Loosening of the nail from the nail bed
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you observe severe symptoms, consult your doctor immediately. Sometimes, the doctor may feel the need to examine pus samples from the infected area, in order to detect the causative agent.
The treatment depends on whether it is acute or chronic. While acute paronychia is treated with oral antibiotics and antibiotic ointments, chronic paronychia is treated with antifungal medication. Here are a few remedies for treating the condition, and checking the spread of infection.
- For bacterial infection, soak your fingers in warm water 4-5 times a day. You may also add a few drops of tea tree oil.
- Keep your hands dry. Use gloves to protect your hands from prolonged exposure to water.
- If there is accumulation of pus, it needs to be drained off the affected area.
- Soak fingers in vinegar solution, as it checks the growth of bacteria and fungi. Mix 1 part vinegar and 2 parts water to make a dilute solution.
- Never try to prick a blister yourself. This may cause the infection to spread to other parts of the finger.
Here are some preventive measures for infection of the cuticles.
- Wash your hands with antibacterial soap.
- Keep your hands and feet clean and dry.
- Never bite your nails. Clip off hangnails with a pair of scissors.
- Avoid exposing your nails to excessive moisture, and harsh detergents and soaps.
- Use your own manicuring tools when visiting a salon. This can greatly reduce the chances of an infection. Also, make sure that the implements used for manicure are clean and sanitized.
- Never leave any wound near the nail untreated.
- Try to go slow while manicuring, and avoid cutting or pushing the cuticle too harshly.
This was all about cuticle infection, and methods of treating the condition. If the infection tends to worsen, visit a doctor.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.