Nail cuticle infections are quite common. If you have never had one, you may not know what has hit you when it does, because it can be quite painful, and if left untreated, tthe nail cuticle infection can become quite serious. Early treatment will lead to the best prognosis if you do get such an infection.


Cause

A nail cuticle infection is usually caused a cuticle injury. This injury may be caused by a hangnail that has been torn or cut off, or could even be caused by the pushing back or trimming of the cuticle. The cause of the infection could be fungal or bacterial, as either a fungus or bacteria can enter the injury, causing the whole site to become inflamed, painful and infected. Paranychia is the most common type of nail cuticle infection.


Symptoms

The symptoms of a nail cuticle infection will vary from individual to individual, but will usually start with a red area around the nail. The area will then become red and tender, and blisters filled with pus may also pop up. This whole process can take a few days, or it can appear suddenly and be painful from the onset.


Treatment

Diagnosis can usually occur by simply looking at the infected area by a qualified doctor. Some doctors will still choose to do a laboratory test to determine if you have a bacterial or fungal infection. This is done by draining any pus that is present and testing the pus in a laboratory setting.

If it is found that you have a bacteria infection, you’ll need to soak the infected area in hot water three times per day to help with the pain and inflammation. In addition, you doctor may prescribe antibiotics after cutting and draining a lesion, if one is present.

If you have a fungal infection, your doctor will usually prescribe an antifungal medication. This will usually be in the form of a spray or cream. Simply wash your hands, apply the medication, and then keep them clean during the healing process to avoid contracting a secondary infection.


Prevention/Solution

You can work to prevent nail cuticle infections. To do this, you should properly care for the hands and nails. Do not bite, pick or tear the cuticle or the skin around the nail. When washing dishes or submerging your hands in water, protect them with rubber gloves to avoid injury, and the bacteria and fungi that may cause infection.


Possible Complications

Nail cuticle infections usually clear up in time after you seek treatment from a doctor, but occasionally there are some serious complications. First, you may suffer an abscess on the nail bed or around the nail which may cause the nail to have to be removed or even to fall off by itself. This may need to be lanced to allow for the infection to be removed. Another care complication is that the infection, if not caught soon enough, will go beyond the level of the skin and into the muscle tissue and bones. Luckily, these serious complications are very rare.

References and Resources

Paronychia