Paronychia | Causes & Risk Factors

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What causes paronychia?

Biting, chewing or picking at nails, pulling hangnails or sucking on fingers can increase the risk of getting an infection. An ingrown toenail can also cause paronychia.

Chronic paronychia can occur when nails are exposed to water or harsh chemicals for long periods of time. Moisture allows certain germs, such as candida (a type of fungus), and bacteria to grow. People whose hands may be wet for long periods of time are at higher risk for chronic paronychia. These may include bartenders, dishwashers, food handlers or housecleaners. Chronic paronychia may be caused by irritant dermatitis, a condition that makes skin red and itchy. Once the skin is irritated, germs can take hold and cause an infection.

Paronychia is more common in adult women and in people who have diabetes. People who have weak immune systems—such as people who must take medicine after having an organ transplant or people who are infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)—are also at higher risk of getting paronychia.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/11
Created: 08/09

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