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How to Recognize and Treat Fingernail Infections

Posted on Wed, May 25, 2016

How to Recognize and Treat Fingernail InfectionsThink about it – like your face, your fingers are exposed to the elements every day but chances are you don’t protect or nourish them the way you should. We use our hands, fingers and fingernails every day in almost every activity. This makes them susceptible to injuries and possible fingernail infections, also known as paronychia.

What is paronychia?

Paronychia (pronounced pair-oh-nick-ee-yah) is a common infection of the skin around the fingernails or toenails that can be caused by Candida species. Infections usually occur because of initial damage to the area from things like biting a hangnail or trimming cuticles with unsanitary manicure tools. This injury then provides a portal of entry for infection to occur. Infections can be caused by bacteria or fungus. Bacterial infections tend to be more painful and swollen, whereas fungal infections usually develop slowly over time. These infections are very common in people with diabetes or weakened immune systems.

Symptoms of Fingernail Infections

Healthy fingernails should have a pinkish color with the occasional flecks of white and a “half-moon” of white appearing at the end of the nail bed. A few bumps and ridges are normal, however, severe variations of the nail’s normal smooth surface could indicate an underlying infection or fungus. Other symptoms of a paronychia include redness and swelling around the nail that is usually painful. If you’re experiencing joint pain or a tingling sensation in the fingers, that could mean several things: cramps from overuse, flexor tendon injury, ganglion cyst, compression on a nerve in the hand, arthritis, diabetes or other immune disorders.

Risk Factors for Fingernail Infections

Fingernail cuticles are a common site of infection, especially if someone is picking, biting or uses unsanitary manicure tools. Cuticle damage is especially notable in children who bite their fingernails; if redness and swelling are not treated with the proper medical attention, this could result in a limb-threatening infection.


Proper nail maintenance is the best prevention. Avoid nail-biting, and trimming or pushing back cuticles too much. Take caution by insisting on sanitized equipment at nail salons and remember to wear gloves when cleaning or being exposed to harsh household chemicals.

Treatment Options

If you notice a swollen or red fingernail or toenail area that has red streaks radiating from the cuticle, this can indicate an infection. Seek medical attention right away. Antibiotics may be prescribed to eliminate the source of a bacterial infection but taking over the counter anti-inflammatories, such as Ibuprofen, may help reduce any pain associated with the swelling. A warm compress may help to decrease pain naturally. In severe cases, the infected area may be drained by a physician to help reduce any built up pressure and reduce pain.

Treatment for Fingernail Infections Available at eMedical

If you or a loved one are unable to move the finger unassisted or if red streaks radiate from a swollen area, seek medical treatment right away. eMedical Urgent Care provides high-quality, affordable, fast care at your convenience. Learn more about our services and how we can treat you by calling our location in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey (908) 464-6700, or Middletown, New Jersey (732) 957-0707. We welcome you to walk in, get your exam and be on your way.

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