Nail Bed Infection

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Infections of the nail bed, also known as paronychia, are quite common and in most cases the condition is easily treatable. There are several causes of paronychia, some of which can be prevented by taking some precautions.

Definition

  • Infection that occurs underneath the nail or in the nail bed is a condition known as paronychia. These infections happen when the barrier between the nail plate and underlying tissue gets torn or broken, allowing bacteria and germs to enter. The bacteria begin to thrive and grow, causing the infected nail bed to swell and become red and painful. Paronychia can also cause an abscess under the nail that fills with pus. Nail bed infections are often highly contagious.

Symptoms

  • The early signs of paronychia are soreness and tenderness around the U shaped part of the nail that is covered by skin. The nail may take on a yellowish green color if an abscess has formed underneath it.

Causes

  • These infections happen when the barrier between the nail plate and underlying tissue gets torn or broken, allowing bacteria and germs to enter. The bacteria begins to thrive and grow, causing the infected nail bed to swell and become red and painful. Paronychia can also cause an abscess under the nail that fills with pus. Nail bed infections are often highly contagious.

Treatment

  • Most cases of infection are mild and can be treated at home with over-the-counter creams and ointments. Soak infected nails in warm water for 10 minutes, three times a day. Gently pulling the skin away from the nail while massaging the area after soaking can help in recovery.

    When at-home methods do not work, doctors often prescribe a medicated ointment or cream along with an antifungal pill if fungus was the cause of the infection. If an abscess exists, a visit to a doctor may be necessary to properly drain the infection without causing further infection. In some cases the infection will move from the nail bed to the nail plate itself, which requires the nail plate to be removed surgically and grown back when the infection has been completely cleared from the nail bed. In cases where the nail beds become infected quite often, seek medical attention to treat the condition, as this could be a sign of a malfunctioning immune system.

Prevention

  • Nail bed infections can be prevented by frequently washing the hands with antibacterial soap, making sure to pay close attention to the nails and cuticles. After washing the hands, it is very important to make sure the hands are thoroughly dry, especially the areas of the nail around the cuticle and edges. Any cuts or scrapes near the cuticle should be bandaged after applying an antibacterial ointment.

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