Minor infections of the skin around the nail (paronychia) are common. They may be caused by repeatedly putting your hands in water or by an injury such as biting off a hangnail or pushing back a cuticle. Minimal redness, pain, or pus that only appears once or twice may clear up with 2 or 3 days of home treatment.
Signs of infection of the skin around or under the nails include:
You may bump or catch an artificial nail, jar it loose from your natural nail, and create a gap between the artificial nail and the natural nail. When this happens, dirt and moisture can get in the gap. A bacterial skin infection or fungal nail infection can develop if the artificial nail is reglued before you clean the gap.
Sometimes a minor infection of the skin around the nail can lead to infection under the nail (subungual abscess), a more serious infection of the skin (cellulitis), bone (osteomyelitis), or a joint (septic arthritis). Infections may also affect the entire body (sepsis).
Infection of the skin of the fingertip (whitlow) can also be caused by a viral infection (herpes simplex) or a bacterial infection (felon). Felon can cause destruction of large areas of tissue on the fingertip and also cause symptoms that affect the entire body.
Prompt treatment of an infection can help prevent complications.
Last Revised: October 12, 2010
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