Paronchyia: What Can Be Done to Treat It at Home

If you have an infection around the base of your fingernail or cuticle, then you have what is medically known as paronychia. This condition, which usually sounds worse than it is, can be problematic for some individuals who cannot seem to recover from it. Chronic paronychia is troublesome for many people who engage in certain professions or who engage in nail-biting or picking. The good news is that you can effectively treat chronic paronychia at home and end this painful, unsightly infection. Below is more information about paronychia, particularly the chronic form, and how you can treat it.

What is paronychia?

Paronychia is an inflammation of the base of the nails, including the cuticle region, that is often but not always caused by physical injury to the region. The classical symptoms, painful and noticeably red swelling, are caused by bacteria in the acute form; however, in the chronic form, fungi or yeast are often the culprits. In both acute and chronic forms of paronychia, the introduction of microorganisms into the skin occurs most often when someone injures the cuticle or area surrounding the nail.

Who is most commonly affected by chronic paronychia?

While acute paronychia can occur in almost anyone, most often those who suffer from chronic forms of the condition are within a somewhat select group of individuals. Here are a few of the most vulnerable to chronic paronychia:

  • Nail-biters or others with poor nail hygiene

  • Medical professionals

  • Cleaning workers

  • Food and beverage preparation specialists

  • Diabetics

One of the common traits shared by many sufferers of chronic paronychia is they work in areas where water exposure is constant. Consistently wet cuticles and fingernails can cause the cuticle to separate slightly from the nail and permit harmful microorganisms to enter. In addition, individuals who suffer repeated stresses to the fingernails may also find themselves suffering from chronic paronychia.

What can be done at home about paronychia?

If you believe you have chronic paronychia, then be aware of the need to address the condition as definitively as possible. There are several good treatment options you can try at home.

Focus on behavior modification first - Since most cases of chronic paronychia are due to behavioral reasons, then modifying the behavior is a solid first step in eliminating the condition. If you are a nail-biter, then seek help from a therapist who specializes in compulsive or addictive behavior reduction. In addition, should you be involved in a high-risk occupation where your hands are constantly wet, then consider wearing high-quality, protective gloves to keep water out of the inside of the gloves. Not only that, but applying creams and oils that help your skin resist water intrusion will keep your fingers drier for a longer period of time. Be sure to avoid damp or wet gloves for extended periods of time and promptly dry your hands whenever possible.

Use proper nail-care techniques - Cutting cuticles is never recommended, as the process of cutting will open the skin to infection. Instead, use an orange stick to push cuticles back if you wish to keep them from growing over your nails. Other good nail-care habits that you should embrace include using high-quality, clean tools to avoid spreading germs that might cause infection.

Apply anti-bacterial and anti-fungal creams - The use of a safe, over-the-counter anti-bacterial or anti-fungal cream can also help heal chronic paronychia. Be sure to follow the directions provided by the maker of the product and avoid washing or wiping away the cream before it has a chance to soak into the affected tissues.

Use safe home remedies - While some home remedies are not advisable due to the danger of causing more harm than good, you can feel comfortable with the application of oregano oil to serve as an anti-bacterial agent. In addition, soaking your affected finger in warm salt water, apple cider vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide can also provide healing and relieve pain and swelling.

Know when to go to the doctor

While there is nothing wrong with using home remedies to treat paronychia, it is important to know when it is time to seek professional help. If you are a diabetic or if you have any of the following symptoms, then you will need to consult with a physician.

  • Fever

  • Severe pain

  • Red streaks leading away from site

  • Significant pus accumulation or drainage

  • Nail loss