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  • Paronychia, also called perionychia, is an infection and inflammation (redness, pain, and swelling) of your nail fold. The nail fold is the skin around your fingernails and toenails. Paronychia may be acute (sudden) or chronic (happen repeatedly over six weeks or longer). Injury to your nails or nail folds, such as from biting your nails may tear your skin. Germs such as bacteria and fungi may enter through the torn skin, causing an infection. Certain medicines and medical conditions may increase your risk of having paronychia. Skin allergies, certain soaps, chemicals, or repeated water soaking may also increase your risk.
    Nail anatomy
  • With paronychia, your nail fold may be painful. Pus may come out of your nail fold when you press against it. With chronic paronychia, your nail may change color or become thick. Your nail may also pull away from your nail fold, and fall off. Your caregiver may ask about your symptoms and do a digital pressure test. You may need medicine to treat your pain, swelling, and infection. You may also need surgery to drain pus or remove your nail and the tissue around it. Treatments for paronychia may decrease redness, pain, and swelling. Treatment may also help prevent the infection from spreading to nearby tissue.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


  • Medicines for paronychia may make you feel sick to your stomach, throw up, or have loose bowel movements. Topical medicine that comes in contact with your eyes or mucus membranes (tissue lining) may cause redness and burning. Using steroid medicine for a long period of time may decrease your adrenal gland function. The adrenal glands make chemicals or hormones that control your body's functions. Antibiotic medicine may cause bowel infections or problems with your bone marrow (soft, spongy tissue inside bones). Antifungal medicine may cause abnormal heartbeats and liver problems. If you need surgery to treat your paronychia, you may get an infection.
  • Without treatment, your nail may become deformed, loose, or fall off. The infection in your nail fold may form a large abscess (pus pocket) in your finger or toe. Your infection may also spread to your bone and other nearby tissue. Call your caregiver if you have questions about your condition, treatment, or care.


Informed consent:

A consent form is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


You may be given the following medicines:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Antifungal medicine: This medicine helps kill fungus that may be causing your infection.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine: This medicine is also called NSAIDs. NSAIDs help decrease pain and inflammation (swelling). Some NSAIDs may also be used to decrease a high body temperature (fever).
  • Pain medicine: You may be given medicine to decrease your pain. Your caregiver will tell you how much and how often to take it. Take the medicine exactly as directed by your caregiver. Do not wait until the pain is too bad before taking your medicine. The medicine may not work as well if you wait too long to take it. Tell caregivers if the pain medicine does not help, or if your pain comes back too soon.
  • Steroids: Steroid medicine may be given to decrease redness, pain, and swelling.
  • Tetanus shot: This is medicine to keep you from getting tetanus. You may be at risk for tetanus if you have skin tears. It is given as a shot. You should have a tetanus shot if you have not had one in the past 5 to 10 years. Your arm may get red, swollen, and sore after getting this shot.
  • Topical medicine: This medicine is put on the skin around your nails. This may come as a cream or ointment. Topical medicine may decrease pain and swelling, and may also prevent infection.


  • Digital pressure test: Your caregiver may ask you to use your thumb to press against your infected finger. You may use your thumb from the same hand as your infected finger. This will help your caregiver check for an abscess in your finger. Pus or fluid from your paronychia may be sent to a lab for tests. This will help your caregiver learn about the germ causing your condition.


  • Surgery: You may need surgery to drain an abscess in your finger or toe. With chronic paronychia, you may need surgery to remove your nail and any infected tissue around it. Ask your caregiver for more information about fingernail or toenail removal.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Paronychia (Inpatient Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.