Infected Nail Cuticle: Causes and Treatment

Suffering from infected nail cuticles? Here is how to treat cuticle damage once and for all.

Infected Nail Cuticle: Causes and Treatment

Paronychia is a skin infection that occurs around the fingernails and toenails. When fungi or bacteria get under the skin, they can cause cuticle damage – including infections. It is important to stop the infection in its tracks to stop it from spreading. If you have infected nail cuticles, here is what you need to know about the condition and how to treat infected cuticles.

Infected cuticles: causes

The most common reasons for Paronychia are chewing and biting of the nails. This habit causes bacteria to enter the exposed cuticles – making them infected. Also, exposure to chemicals and frequently wet hands are also at risk of getting infected nail cuticles.

The condition is called Paronychia, and there are two types of it:

Acute paronychia

A condition that develops over hours or days. This type of infection does not spread very deep into the fingers and toes. When treated in time, Acute paronychia is cured relatively quickly.

Chronic paronychia

Cuticle damage that lasts at least 6 weeks. Unlike the acute state, chronic paronychia develops slowly, and it can become severe. Those who suffer from chronic paronychia will likely present the condition in several digits at once.

infected nail cuticles
Infected nail cuticles symptoms

The most common symptoms of paronychia are:

  • Abscesses filled with pus
  • Redness/swelling/tenderness around the nails
  • Nail damage/nail deformation
  • Nail hardening
  • Nail separating from the nailbed

Aside from chewing nails and exposure to chemicals/water, there are several other causes of infected cuticles:

  • Clipping nails/toenail too short
  • Ingrown nails
  • Manicures
  • Wearing false nails/acrylics
  • Paronychia is common in people with diabetes and adult women. Also, people with a weak immune system are more likely to develop paronychia.

Paronychia diagnosis

If your fingernail and/or toenails are swollen, infected or you feel discomfort in your fingertips - it is possible that you have infected cuticles. You should see your doctor, and he can diagnose the problem with a simple physical exam. In certain cases, the doctor will take a swab of the pus and send it to a lab to identify the fungus or bacteria that is causing the infection.

How to treat infected cuticles?

It is important to treat paronychia to stop the infection from spreading to the fingers. Once you go to the doctor, he/she will be able to check the severity of the infection and prescribe a treatment, if one is necessary.

How to treat infected cuticles

Medical treatment of cuticle infection may include the following:

Acute paronychia:

Draining of the abscess

The doctor will gently puncture the affected area to drain the abscess. This will drain the pus that contains the viral/bacterial infection, which will prevent the infection from spreading.

Prescribing antibiotics

Cuticle infection can damage the nails and skin. It is important to stop the infection in its tracks to stop it from spreading to the skin or bones. To do so, a doctor will prescribe an antiviral medication or antibiotics.

Chronic paronychia:

If you are suffering from chronic paronychia, your doctor will likely prescribe you long-term treatment:

  • Topical steroids: medication to fight inflammation. A local cream will help stop the infection and make your cuticles healthy.
  • Topical antifungal medication: in case a cuticle infection is caused by a fungal infection, you should receive proper treatment with antifungal medication.
  • oral antibiotics or antifungal medicine: depending on the type of chronic paronychia that you have, your doctor will prescribe you oral medication.

If the infection is not severe, meaning you have acute paronychia, you can treat the infection at home. Soak the infected nails in warm water 3 to 4 times a day. This simple treatment will reduce swelling and pain, and the infection will be cured within several days.

If the pain does not go away, and you have pus that won't go away after several days of soaking, you should see your doctor. If you have an abscess, it should be drained by a medical professional and with clean tools. The doctor will numb the area and proceed to drain the pus.

For those of you who have chronic paronychia, the doctor should be your first stop. Also, you should keep your hands dry and do not expose your hands to chemicals. If you need to wash dishes or perform other tasks with water, put on gloves.

If the condition proceeds and you develop other symptoms, see your doctor.


Infected cuticles: at-home treatment

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

ACV is great for treating a myriad of medical conditions, including cuticle infection. Apple Cider Vinegar is rich in antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, so it can be used as a natural antiseptic. For an at-home treatment of an infected cuticle, soak a cotton ball in ACV and place it on the infected areas. You may feel a slight sting during the soaking. However, if you feel pain, remove the cotton ball, and try to dilute the ACV with warm water and then apply it to your cuticles.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil has very potent anti-inflammatory properties. The essential oil contains terpenes and flavonoids that fight infections, so it is no surprise that it is used in many beauty products. If your cuticles are infected, dilute a few drops of tea tree oil in a small ball of warm water. You can also use a carrier oil, like coconut oil, for the treatment. Put a few drops of the diluted tea tree oil on a clean gauze, and wrap it around the infected cuticles. You will feel a slight sting that is natural. Remove the gauze bandage after about 10 minutes.

infected cuticles
How to prevent infected nail cuticles

To prevent cuticle damage, peeling cuticles, and paronychia, you should stick to a cuticle care routine:

  • Do not bite your fingertips and nails
  • Trim your nails and keep them smooth
  • Do not pick your nails
  • Do not cut your nails too short
  • Use clean tools when treating your nails – clean your scissors and nail clippers before and after each use.
  • Do not trim or scrape your cuticles – if you want to enjoy an at-home manicure, you can. However, you should avoid scraping or trimming your nails.

Best cuticle care conditioner

If you want to treat your nails and cuticles, a natural cuticle conditioner can help you do so. To treat your nails properly, you should avoid using products that contain chemicals and harsh materials. They can damage your nails and cuticles, causing paronychia and other problems.

Instead, prefer a natural nail care product that will nourish your nails and cuticles at the same time. Products that contain Vitamin A and Vitamin E should be at the top of your list. These two vitamins are vital for healthy nails growth, and they will protect your cuticles from infections.

Also, use a product with natural oils -such as shea butter, that will give your nails and cuticles a natural defense coat. Aloe Vera is also a wonderful, natural component that soothes the skin and can reduce redness and swelling.

Infected nail cuticles damage both the nails and nailbeds. Whether it's acute paronychia or chronic paronychia, you should not ignore the problem and wait for it to go away. See your doctor and find out if you need medical treatment. Also, follow the tips for avoiding infected cuticles and stick to a natural cuticle care routine to keep your nails and cuticle strong and healthy.   


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