Yeast Infected Toenails
Most Common Infection
Sometimes infection develops along the side of a fingernail or toenail. This is called a paronychia, pronounced pear-ah-nick-ee-ah. This is the most common of all hand or foot infections, and needs prompt treatment to prevent the infection from spreading to the entire finger or toe.
When nails are damaged by trauma such as finger sucking, nail biting, exposure to harsh chemicals, or dishwashing, opportunistic bacteria or yeast can enter the skin in the break that is created at the edge of the nail. A paronychia can also be caused by fungus and this is most often seen in people who get repeat fungal infections.
Paronychia starts with swelling and redness about the nail which is called cellulitis. The area will be very sore and if pus is present, may turn a yellowish green. At this point, an abscess will have formed.
If the skin is only red at the edge of the nail, there's no need to rush to the doctor, but if the redness should spread to the skin around your nail or to your fingertips you need to see your physician, fast. This is an indication that a more serious infection has formed, affecting the deep tissues of your fingertips. The type of deep tissue infection is known as a "felon."
When It's Time To Call A Doctor
Another indication that it's time to call your doctor is if you think an abscess may be forming. An abscess needs to be drained by a doctor. Don't attempt to do this on your own at home. The minute you see signs of pus collection, pick up the phone and call for an immediate appointment. If you see the redness and swelling spreading down your finger or you can't move your finger joints, you should go to the nearest emergency room for treatment. You may or may not have fever or chills at this point, which would also indicate a more serious infection.
In the early stages of paronychia, you can try to treat the infection yourself. Soak your finger in a mixture of half warm water, half liquid antibacterial soap, 3 or 4 times a day, for around 15 minutes each time.
If you have an abscess, your doctor will numb your finger with lidocaine and open the abscess with a scalpel. The open wound is often packed with what is known as a wick. This keeps the abscess draining after you return home and will keep the wound from closing. This packing is left in place for a day or two.
If the infection moves under the nail, you may require a partial or complete nail removal. Most of the time, antibiotics are unneeded. It's possible your physician will want to culture your drainage to see what mechanism is causing the trouble: bacteria, yeast, or fungus.
If you have your paronychia drained, it is probable that your doctor will want you to follow up with warm soaks as described above. Make sure to be in touch with the doctor in a day or two after surgical drainage so he can monitor your progress.