Chemotherapy And Nail Infections
If you’re undergoing chemotherapy, you’re likely to experience some of the side effects associated with these powerful drugs. Chemotherapy drugs specifically attack the fast-growing cells in your body, such as those in your hair and your nails, which can make you more prone to nail injuries and infections.
During chemotherapy, you may experience several changes in your nails. They may look bruised, develop blemishes such as lines or indentations, become dry and thin or grow more slowly. Your nails are likely to break more easily, your cuticles may fray, and sometimes a nail may fall off. These side effects are temporary, but they can lead to a more serious problem: infection .
Chemotherapy suppresses your immune system, which is the set of processes in your body designed to fight infection — with a weaker immune system, your nails and other tissues lose strength. You’ll be more likely to develop an infection through a skin opening where your cuticle has frayed or in the nail itself, and you’ll be less able to combat it. If you suspect that you have a nail infection, see your doctor immediately.
A variety of nail infections can occur among chemotherapy patients and other people:
On the next page you’ll learn what physicians can do to treat nail infections.
The last thing you need when you’re undergoing chemotherapy is a nail infection. Here are some tips for avoiding one:
How Is A Paronychia Diagnosed
Paronychia is a common infection and is usually diagnosed clinically based on a history of trauma to the nail fold and the symptoms described above. If drainage is present, it may be useful to perform a culture for bacteria and a KOH prep to identify any fungal elements to guide antimicrobial treatment. If herpetic whitlow is suspected, a viral culture would be useful to confirm the diagnosis. Imaging studies are generally not needed unless there is suspicion of a foreign body, fracture, or spread of infection to the bone.
Can I Treat Paronychia At Home
You may be able to treat mild cases of paronychia at home. Soak the infected area in warm water for about 15 minutes a few times a day. Be sure to dry the area thoroughly. Soaking the cuticle and nailbed helps pus drain from under the skin.
If symptoms dont get better after a day or two of home remedies, see your provider. You may need other treatments, such as antibiotics, to clear up the infection and help you heal. You may also need minor procedures such as drainage if an abscess has formed.
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Symptoms Of Toenail Infection Or Fingernail Infection
Fungal infections of the nail can make the nail thicken, crumble and change colour usually to yellow or white, but it can also go green or even black. This often happens slowly, and its usually painless.
If the skin on the feet is affected, you might see a scaly rash.
Fungal infections affect the toenails more often than the fingernails.
If your child has a bacterial or viral infection, the skin around your childs finger or toe will be inflamed. On children with darker skin, the inflammation might look brown, purple or grey. On children with lighter skin, the inflammation might look red. The skin might also be swollen, hot, tender and painful.
A blister with pus can form next to the nail. Rarely, your child might get a fever and have difficulty moving their finger or toe.
Bacterial and viral infections affect the fingernails more often than the toenails.
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 464-6700, or Middletown, New Jersey 957-0707. We welcome you to walk in, get your exam and be on your way.
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Treating Ingrown Fingernails Medically
What Are The Signs Of Paronychia
Chances are, if you have paronychia, it will be easy to recognize. There will be an area of skin around a nail that is painful and tender when you touch it. The area probably will be red and swollen and feel warm. You may see a pus-filled blister.
If the paronychia has been there a long time, the nail may turn a different color. It might not be its usual shape or might look as if it’s coming away from the nail bed.
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How To Treat A Nail Infection
Nails are more than simple protective coverings for sensitive fingers and toes. Your nails are living, growing parts of your body, and as such, they can get sick just like the rest of your body.
Infections of the nails and the surrounding skin can result from injury, ingrown nails, split and separated nails and other more serious conditions. Infections not only cause pain, but they can also affect the way your nails grow and can impact your overall health.
Nails seem vastly different from the outer layer of skin known as the epidermis, but they are merely the hardening of the top layers of epidermis. On thicker-skinned parts of your body, such as your palm, the epidermis comprises five layers — at the tips of your fingers and toes, these outermost layers of the epidermis harden into nails. These nails, made from a protein called keratin, protect the sensitive tissue underneath and make it possible to use fingers and toes for scratching and other purposes .
An infection occurs when foreign bodies, such as viruses, fungi and bacteria, get inside your body. Infections may seem like mild matters, but they can become serious complications for people with other medical conditions or if they go untreated and spread. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, irritation and pain. Infected tissue is also warm and tender to the touch and may produce pus .
Skin Infection Around A Fingernail Or Toenail : References
eMedicine. Paronychia Treatment & Management. 9/2013. Accessed 6/2014 from
MedlinePlus. Paronychia. US Dept of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine. 5/2011. Accessed 5/2012 from .
The Five Minute Emergency Consult Published by Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins Edited by Peter Rosen et al Pgs. 818-819.
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What Should You Do
If paronychia is mild and hasn’t started to spread beyond the fingernail, you can probably treat it at home. Soak the infected nail in warm water for 20 minutes a few times a day. The infection will probably heal on its own in a few days.
If paronychia doesn’t get better after a week or so, call your doctor. You’ll want to call a doctor right away if you have an abscess or if it looks like the infection has spread beyond the area of the nail.
If paronychia becomes severe and you don’t see a doctor, infection can spread through the finger or toe and move into the rest of the body. Luckily, this is very rare.
How Common Is Paronychia
Paronychia is a common nail condition. Anyone can get a bacterial nail infection, but its more common among people who:
- Are exposed to irritants: Detergents and other chemicals can irritate the skin and lead to a nail bed infection. People who work with chemicals and dont wear protective gloves have a higher risk.
- Bite their nails or cuticles: Nail biting or picking at the cuticles can create tiny cracks in the nails or cuts in the skin. Bacteria may enter the skin through these small cuts.
- Have certain skin conditions: People who have underlying skin conditions may be more likely develop nail infections.
- Work with water: Bartenders, dishwashers and other people with jobs that require their hands to be wet have a higher risk of developing paronychia.
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What Causes A Finger Infection
Bacteria cause most types of finger infections. The exception to this is the herpetic whitlow, which is caused by a virus. How the infection starts and is found in a particular location is what makes each specific type of infection unique. Usually, some form of trauma to the finger or hand is the initial event. This may be a cut, animal bite, or puncture wound.
Each of the main finger infections has specific signs and symptoms that make identification unique and may cause confusion if not properly evaluated.
- Deep space infections: The deep space infection that arises in the web space of the fingers is also called a collar button abscess. Symptoms and signs of deep space infections include pain and swelling in the space between the fingers. The area may also be red and warm to the touch. As the abscess becomes larger, the fingers will be slightly spread apart by the increasing pressure. The central area may have a soft spot that represents a collection of pus under the skin.
How Is Paronychia Treated
Treatment for paronychia depends on how severe the infection is. If you have acute paronychia, soaking the infected nail in warm water 3 to 4 times a day can help reduce pain and swelling. It should heal up in a few days. If the infection is very painful, doesnt get better with home care, or has a pus-filled abscess, you may need to see your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if your paronychia is caused by bacteria. He or she may prescribe antifungal medicines if your infection is caused by a fungus.
If you have an abscess, your doctor may need to drain it. Your doctor will numb the area, separate the skin from the base or sides of the nail, and drain the pus.
If you have chronic paronychia, it is important to keep your nails dry and protect them from harsh chemicals. You may need to wear gloves or use a skin-drying cream to protect skin from moisture. You may need an antifungal medicine or antibiotic, depending on what is causing the infection.
Paronychia caused by a fungus can be hard to get rid of. Be patient and follow your doctors recommendations. If the infection does not clear up, be sure to tell your doctor.
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Medical Treatment For Finger Infections
The mainstay of treatment for finger infections is antibiotics and proper wound care. The proper wound care varies for each of the different infections. This can range from a simple incision and drainage of the wound to an extensive surgical exploration of the wound to remove as much infected material as possible.
Some of the infections can be treated as an outpatient, but several will require inpatient treatment and intravenous antibiotics. Because the organisms that cause these infections are similar, many of the same types of antibiotics may be used.
How To Recognize And Treat Fingernail Infections
Think about it like your face, your fingers are exposed to the elements every day but chances are you dont 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.
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What Types Of Doctors Treat Finger Infections
A primary care provider , such as a family practitioner or internist, will often first diagnose and treat a finger infection. A child may see a pediatrician for finger infections. In an emergency situation, you may see an emergency medicine specialist in an emergency department.
If the finger infection is severe, you may be referred to a hand surgery specialist, who may be an orthopedic surgeon or a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. If the infection does not heal properly, you may be referred to a wound care specialist.
Symptoms Of Nail Diseases And Disorders
In the case of onychomycosis, common symptoms include a distorted or misshapen nail, a nail that lifts off from the nail bed,
an odor coming from the nail, a thickened nail, a nail or multiple nails that are white or yellowish in appearance, or a spotted nail.
The paronychia nail infection typically first causes a crack in the nail fold, followed by swelling, redness, and tenderness. This inflammation can also cause a pus-filled abscess on the side of the nail. The finger or toe is eventually very painful to the touch, and if untreated, can make wearing shoes or gloves impossible.
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When Should Someone Seek Medical Care For A Finger Infection
The key to preventing disability and possible loss of the finger is early and appropriate treatment. If any signs and symptoms of finger infection are present, contact a doctor at once.
If a person has signs or symptoms of a felon, cellulitis, flexor tenosynovitis, or deep space infection, seek emergency care at once.
Types Of Nail Diseases And Disorders
One of the most common types of nail diseases and disorders is a fungal nail infection, known clinically as onychomycosis. This nail disease appears when fungi in, under, or around the nail grow in excess. It can spread from other fungal issues in the body, like ringworm, jock itch, and athletes foot if theyre not properly treated. Additionally, it can happen if you come in contact with someone who has a fungal nail infection. This can happen at the gym, at a nail salon, or at a pool, especially when surfaces, materials, and tools are not properly sanitized between uses.
Another common type of nail disease is known as paronychia. This particular infection is often caused by biting the nails, cutting them too close, or trimming the cuticles. Both bacteria and fungi can be culprits for paronychia. Frequent sucking on a thumb or finger, biting off hangnails, having hands in water frequently, and having an ingrown fingernail or toenail can all contribute to the development of this nail infection as well.
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Can Paronychia Be Prevented
Have kids follow these tips to lower their risk of paronychia:
- Don’t bite or pick nails.
- Trim fingernails and toenails with clippers or manicure scissors, and smooth the edges with an emery board or nail file. The best time to do this is after a bath or shower, when nails are softer. They shouldn’t cut their nails too short.
- Don’t push cuticles back or trim them and don’t use cuticle remover. Damaging cuticles can let bacteria get into the skin and cause an infection.
- Wear rubber gloves if there’s a chance their hands might be in contact with harsh detergents or chemicals.
- If your child has diabetes, make sure it is well-controlled.
As much as possible, have kids try to avoid injuring their nails and the skin around them. Nails grow very slowly, so any damage to them can last a long time and increase the risk of paronychia.
Treatment Of Acute Paronychia
Drainage of pus
In its earliest stage, acute paronychia may be treated with an antibiotic taken by mouth and frequent warm soaks to increase the blood flow.
If pus accumulates, it must be drained. The doctor numbs the finger or toe with a local anesthetic and lifts up the nail fold with an instrument. Cutting the skin is usually unnecessary. A thin gauze wick can be inserted for 24 to 48 hours to allow the area to drain.
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What Is The Best Thing To Soak An Infected Finger In
As finger infections tend to become more severe, there is limited scope for home remedies. A slight infection of the finger can be managed at home if the person does not have any underlying medical condition like diabetes. For other infections, seek immediate medical care to avoid disability or loss of the finger.
A simple infection of the finger can be treated by soaking it in:
- A mixture of pre-boiled warm water with antibacterial soap for 15 minutes, two to four times a day
- Water with Epsom salt to soothe the area and provide pain relief
- Apple cider vinegar because it has antibacterial and antifungal properties
- An antiseptic solution of warm water
However, if you do not find any improvement, then consult a physician without delay.
You can take care of an infected finger by following these instructions from the doctor:
- Wash the finger with clean water two times a day. Do not use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol.
- Next, cover the area with a thin layer of antiseptic ointment and a bandage.
- Take the antibiotics as prescribed. Complete the course of antibiotics even if you feel better.
- Take over the counter painkillers if required. However, do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless prescribed by the physician.
- Apply a warm compress or warm cloth on the infected finger.
- Elevate the infected finger above the level of the heart to reduce pain and swelling.