Paronychia (par-uh-NIK-ee-uh) is an infection that occurs around the nails and usually goes away completely with treatment.
Paronychia starts with damage to the skin around the nail, often from pushing back the cuticle, frequent manicures, biting off a hangnail, or thumb-sucking. This lets germs get under the skin and cause an infection. It most commonly affects fingers but sometimes can occur in toes.
The infected area can become swollen, red, and painful, and a pus-filled blister (abscess) may form. Usually, a paronychia is no big deal and can be treated at home by soaking the infected nail in warm water for 20 minutes a few times a day. The paronychia should heal on its own in a few days.
If an abscess forms, it may need to be drained by a doctor. Rarely, the infection can spread to the rest of the finger or toe and lead to bigger problems that need further treatment.
To help prevent paronychia, don't pick or bite around nails, don't cut nails too short, don't push cuticles back, and wear rubber gloves when washing a lot of dishes or coming into contact with chemicals.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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