Paronychia, also known as nail infection, refers to an infection that affects the skin around the nails, both toenails, and fingernails. It is the most common nail problem and is mostly caused by bacteria but a chronic paronychia is usually caused by a fungal infection. In essence, we have bacterial paronychia and fungal paronychia. Paronychia is more common with the hand, unlike onychomycosis which is more common with the foot. The location and appearance of paronychia distinguish it from other nail infections. Skin inflammation, pus, as well as pain are some of the indications of paronychia. This infection can develop in a few days and could also take a few weeks to develop depending on the cause.
Causes of paronychia
Paronychia often occurs as a result of irritation or injury to the skin adjacent to nails. When this adjacent skin is damaged, it becomes a thriving ground for germs including bacteria and fungi. The causes include the following:
· Habitual sucking of the fingers
· Biting or tearing off a hangnail
· Any kind of trauma to the nail
· Excessive trimming of the nail or the cuticle
· Frequent soaking of the hands in water
· Chemical irritants e.g. chemicals contained in the glue used for manicure
· Underlying health issues such as diabetes
Symptoms of paronychia
Paronychia is very easy to distinguish yet can be confused with herpetic whitlow caused by a virus. When you notice the following symptoms around any of your nails, then you may have paronychia.
· Inflammation of the skin surrounding the nail
· Redness along the edges of the nail
· Collection pus in the surrounding skin
· The skin surrounding the nail becomes tender and is painful when touched.
Treatment of paronychia
Though paronychia is not an infection to lose sleep over, it can become serious by spreading to other fingers and toes if not treated promptly. It can even cause loss of nail(s). Fortunately, paronychia does not require medication most of the time; it can be successfully treated at home especially when it is a mild case. Let’s look at some of the effective home remedies for paronychia.
Home remedies for paronychia
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Apple Cider Vinegar is a natural remedy for paronychia. ACV is rich in antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It contains active beneficial bacterial as well as antiseptic compounds which enable it to effectively destroy the bacteria responsible for paronychia.
Place a ball of cotton already soaked in ACV on the infected nail and leave it for about 20 to 25 minutes. Normally, you would feel some stinging effect; it is an indication ACV is combatting the infection. However, if the stinging is too painful for you, you can dilute ACV with water before using it next time.
Both fungus and bacteria do well in an acidic environment hence increasing the pH of the skin around the nail will choke the bacteria and fungus causing paronychia. This is where baking soda comes in; it is highly alkaline hence when used in treating paronychia, it will reduce the acidity of the surrounding skin.
Make a paste by adding a few drops of water to baking soda, then apply the paste on the infected nail or finger and wrap with gauze. Do this about three times daily and paronychia will be gone into time.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is an essential oil with numerous benefits. It combats a variety of infections. Flavonoids and terpenes contained in tea tree oil are loaded with antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Terpene-4-ol found in terpene is particularly good at curing paronychia.
Dilute tea tree oil with water or carrier oil such as coconut oil and apply a few drops of the mixture to gauze and wrap it around the infected area. If you can bear a level of stinging, you may not dilute tea tree oil. If the paronychia is caused by a fungus, add oregano oil to tea tree oil for greater antifungal properties.
Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe Vera contains antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Polyphenol antioxidants contained in Aloe Vera takes care of the inflammation of the skin and soothes the nail bed and cuticle.
Get a fleshy leaf of aloe vera and it to the infected finger or toes. If you do not have fresh aloe vera leaves around you, you can purchase aloe vera gel from a local health store and apply it to the infected finger or toe.
Other home remedies include raw honey, garlic, echinacea, thyme, etc.
Paronychia can be successfully treated using any of the above home remedies. You must also pay attention to the risk factors and try as much as possible to reduce them in order to prevent paronychia.