JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Acute and Chronic Paronychia

Jeff C Leggit
American Family Physician 2017 July 1, 96 (1): 44-51
28671378
Paronychia is inflammation of the fingers or toes in one or more of the three nail folds. Acute paronychia is caused by polymicrobial infections after the protective nail barrier has been breached. Treatment consists of warm soaks with or without Burow solution or 1% acetic acid. Topical antibiotics should be used with or without topical steroids when simple soaks do not relieve the inflammation. The presence of an abscess should be determined, which mandates drainage. There are a variety of options for drainage, ranging from instrumentation with a hypodermic needle to a wide incision with a scalpel. Oral antibiotics are usually not needed if adequate drainage is achieved unless the patient is immunocompromised or a severe infection is present. Therapy is based on the most likely pathogens and local resistance patterns. Chronic paronychia is characterized by symptoms of at least six weeks' duration and represents an irritant dermatitis to the breached nail barrier. Common irritants include acids, alkalis, and other chemicals used by housekeepers, dishwashers, bartenders, florists, bakers, and swimmers. Treatment is aimed at stopping the source of irritation while treating the inflammation with topical steroids or calcineurin inhibitors. More aggressive techniques may be required to restore the protective nail barrier. Treatment may take weeks to months. Patient education is paramount to reduce the recurrence of acute and chronic paronychia.

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