Paronychia: How is It Different from an Ingrown Nail?

Dr. Bowman, My referring doctor told me I had a Paronychia. What is it? I get this question at least once a week.

A Paronychia is a skin infection that occurs around the nails and is often occur with an Ingrown Nail. This condition is usually caused by an injury to the surrounding tissue of the nail from picking at the nail, improper trimming of the nail and trauma.

The main symptom of a Paronychia is a painful, red area with swelling to the nail fold. More often than not pus or drainage is present. There may be pus filled blisters with a bacterial infection. Acute Paronychia is typically caused by bacteria called Staphylococcus Aureus.

Treatment is often to perform a minor procedure in the office where the area is drained and a culture will be taken to determine the bacteria. A small portion of the nail may need to be removed as well. The patient will be given oral antibiotics and soaks with a topical antibiotic.

A chronic Paronychia is one that comes and goes or one that clears up on its own but then reoccurs. Chronic conditions can cause permanent damage to the shape of the nail and spread of infection to other areas, including tendons, bone, or blood stream.

If you see pus or drainage from a toenail, contact your local podiatrist right away before the condition spreads.

Dr. Bowman is a Foot and Ankle surgeon with Houston Foot Specialists and can be contacted at or by calling 713-467-8886.

Category: Foot Problems

Tags: Bisters, foot pain, Foot Treatment, Ingrown Nail, Swelling, Toe Pain, Toenail