Having beautiful hands is not only a beauty ideal, but also has a health aspect that should not be underestimated. The result of insufficient hygiene or lack of care can be a painful nail fold infection.
What is nail fold infection?
The nail fold is the area of the finger that represents the space between the nail and the adjacent skin. Due to the permanent contact of the fingers with objects, the risk of inflammation is particularly high, which is summarized under the generic term of nail fold inflammation . See psyknowhow for Meige Syndrome Explained.
The nail fold becomes inflamed, which can have different reasons, but is often due to the fact that the affected person has touched objects contaminated with pathogens with his hands, more precisely with his fingers.
Direct contact of the hands with such pathogens is considered the main cause of nail fold inflammation. A distinction is made between acute and chronic nail fold inflammation in terms of the number of recurrences, the recurrence of symptoms after successful treatment.
All pathogens that are otherwise responsible for skin infections can be considered as possible pathogens for nail fold inflammation . Staphylococci often play a role in acute nail fold inflammation. They are by far the most common cause of acute nail fold inflammation.
In contrast, they play a subordinate role in chronic nail fold inflammation; The main focus here is on yeast fungi. Precisely because fungi are much more difficult to combat than staphylococci and therefore cause the clinical picture to flare up again and again, doctors initially assume a yeast infection in chronic nail fold inflammation.
Irrespective of whether it is a bacterial or yeast-related infection: An infection does not occur solely through contact with the pathogen. Only when the skin barrier, consisting of the hostile skin flora, is impaired or skin lesions are present, can the pathogens enter the body and ultimately trigger an inflammation.
Furthermore, a weak immune system also plays a major role, whether simple contact with the corresponding pathogens can also lead to the outbreak of nail fold inflammation.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
An inflamed nail bed can usually be determined by those affected themselves. Typically, the inflammation shows up as a noticeable reddening in the area of the affected nail bed. Initially, there is an itch in the affected area. Then the skin under the nail bed swells up.
The nail bed becomes overheated and reddened. Nail fold inflammation is also often associated with pain, which initially only occurs on contact and eventually becomes permanent. After a few days, however, the symptoms subside if the nail bed is protected and treated with a suitable preparation.
If left untreated or if the inflammation has a serious underlying cause, the disease can progress. Then there is severe pain, pressure irritation and itching, combined with restricted movement and sensory disturbances. In isolated cases, subungual panaritium develops. This causes pus to form under the nail, resulting in painful swelling.
After a few days, the swelling opens and the secretion drains in the area of the nail fold. In the long term, nail fold inflammation can affect the growth of the affected nail. A detachment of the nail bed is also possible as a result of severe inflammation. In the chronic form, the nail bed takes on a yellowish or greenish color.
Diagnosis & History
As with all inflammations, the clinical picture of the inflamed area is enough for experienced doctors to diagnose nail fold inflammation . Only in cases of doubt or if a previous treatment has failed are further diagnostic measures resorted to.
In order to determine the specific pathogen, a smear must be taken from the inflamed area, which is examined histologically. This is relevant insofar as not every pathogen responds equally to one and the same antibiotic. Knowing the exact pathogen allows the choice of an appropriate antibiotic as a treatment measure against nail fold inflammation.
Inflammation of the nail folds primarily causes severe aesthetic problems for those affected. Most people with this disease no longer feel beautiful and, as a result, often suffer from significantly reduced self-esteem or from inferiority complexes. Social problems or depression can also occur as a result of nail fold inflammation and significantly reduce the quality of life of those affected.
In many cases, the nails are significantly swollen and reddened. When pressure is applied, the pain is very severe and throbbing, so that the patient’s everyday life is significantly restricted by the disease. It is also usually no longer easy for the person concerned to carry out their usual activities.
Nail fold inflammation is usually treated with antibiotics. There are no complications and the course of the disease is positive. Complications usually only arise if treatment is not started early and the inflammation spreads to other areas of the hands and body. However, the life expectancy of those affected is not affected by nail fold inflammation.
When should you go to the doctor?
In many cases, a doctor does not have to be consulted for a nail fold infection. If the impairments are rather weak and the person affected has sufficient knowledge of how to deal with the inflammation, they can take care of the symptoms themselves. The area is usually opened with a sterile tool, the liquid is carefully removed and healing occurs within a short time. This all happens normally without medical care.
However, if the inflammation increases in scope and intensity, a doctor should be consulted. If sterile wound care cannot be guaranteed, there is a risk of blood poisoning for those affected. This can suddenly endanger life, which must be prevented in good time. In the case of painful swelling, severe discoloration of the affected nail or persistent symptoms, we recommend that you consult a doctor. If there are permanent disturbances in the heart rhythm, a loss of gripping function or if mobility is severely restricted, a doctor is needed.
If your body is in the wrong position or you are restricted in your mobility, you should consult a doctor. If everyday requirements can no longer be met or if the surrounding skin becomes reddened, a doctor should be consulted. If persistent emotional irregularities occur in addition to the physical impairments, a doctor should be consulted.
Treatment & Therapy
As already mentioned, it depends on which pathogen it is. Antibiotics are used in the majority of nail fold infections, acute nail fold infections.
Systemic administration spreads the antibiotic agent over the entire organism and thus also to non-inflamed areas where pathogens could nevertheless be found. After the successive killing of all pathogens, the wound healing is left to the body itself. In the case of chronic nail fold inflammation, where yeast fungi are the most common cause, antibiotics are of no use; it requires fungicidal agents, i.e. agents that kill fungi.
If the treatment is not started on time and the inflammation continues to spread, in the worst case it can lead to the nail fold inflammation having to be treated surgically. However, this is only necessary in the rarest cases of nail fold infection, since the available conventional antibiotics and fungicides are effective enough to treat even severe cases of nail fold infection with them.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis depends primarily on the severity of the disease and the point in time at which the nail fold inflammation was recognized and professionally treated. If an infection is not treated, the inflammation can also spread further and further. It can then also spread to neighboring tendon sheaths and even spread from there to the bones. This dreaded inflammation of the bones or tendon sheaths is very painful for those affected.
In most cases, the treatment of such complications takes a relatively long time. However, if a nail fold infection is treated, the infection usually heals completely within a few days. It is particularly important to ensure that no irritants come into contact with the already inflamed area of skin. If the affected nails are heavily loaded, appropriate protection should be provided.
In general, those affected should only wear shoes in which their feet have enough space and also do not sweat much. In addition, the toenail edges should never be cut off round, as this increases the likelihood of a recurrence. Those affected who often come into contact with strong cleaning agents or sharp substances should always wear gloves. When caring for the nails, sufferers should be careful not to injure the cuticles, as this could lead to the infection flaring up again.
In order to prevent nail fold inflammation from occurring in the first place, injuries to the hands or fingers should be avoided in order to prevent pathogens from penetrating the body.
Possible “gateways” are not only mechanical injuries to the hands, but also softening. Above all, those who work with their hands in humid places at work have an increased risk of catching nail fold infections.
The reason is that the humid environment not only softens the skin, but also dilutes the skin flora as a protective film. Incidentally, the general rules for strengthening the immune system can effectively prevent nail fold inflammation in order to kill even invading pathogens before nail fold inflammation breaks out.
Aftercare for nail fold inflammation includes measures aimed at optimal healing of the inflammation and prevention of future problems. As long as the nail fold inflammation has not completely healed, increased precautionary measures must be taken. The diseased nail should be kept dry, and mechanical stress and strenuous movements with the affected hand should be avoided.
The inflamed nail fold should not come into contact with soaps, cosmetics or even irritating chemical substances. After successful therapy of the nail fold inflammation, it is important to use knowledge of the causes of the inflammation for aftercare. If the infection was caused, for example, by cleaning staff’s wet hands, gloves can help.
In some cases, nail fold inflammation is caused by dirt or injuries from manicures or artificial nails. Then the nail care should be carried out more carefully in the future. Artificial nails should be avoided if nail fold infections recur. A dermatologist can monitor and optimize follow-up care for long-term treatment success.
To prevent future inflammation, patients avoid biting their nails whenever possible. A suitable nail cream from the pharmacy can also help to protect the cuticles and prevent further infections. However, if nail fold infections become chronic, habits at work, in everyday life and at home should be reconsidered and, if possible, changed in order to prevent a constant recurrence of the disease.
You can do that yourself
A doctor does not always have to be consulted in the case of nail fold inflammation. The condition can often be treated independently by following a few tips.
The first step is to alleviate the disease by ensuring adequate foot hygiene. Those affected can use appropriate care products from the pharmacy or drugstore. Home remedies such as foot baths with tea, cooling pads or wraps also help to heal the inflammation. The affected toe must not be loaded for a few days. It is best for the sick to rest and not to wear shoes that are too tight during the acute phase of the disease. The inflammation itself can be treated with a special plaster to keep the cuticle from sticking to the socks.
If the measures mentioned have no effect, the doctor must be informed. There may be a serious underlying cause of nail fold infection that needs to be identified first. The inflamed area must not come into contact with aggressive shampoos or lotions. Women should refrain from painting the nails of the affected foot for the first few days to avoid increasing the inflammation.