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Paronychia is a bacterial infection of the nail fold. In acute paronychia, the cultured bacterium is usually Staphylococcus aureus. It is typically caused by nail biting and manicures. Chronic paronychia is a different disease process, and the cultured bacterium is usually Candida albicans. Chronic paronychia affects individuals whose hands are exposed to water or wet environments for long periods of time, such as kitchen and laundry workers, bartenders and swimmers.

Related Anatomy

  • Nail fold
  • Nail plate
  • Cuticle

Incidence and Related Conditions

  • Paronychia accounts for 35% of infections of the hand.
  • Paronychia is more common in women than in men, with a female-to-male ratio of 3:1.

Differential Diagnosis

  • Candidiasis
  • Felon finger
  • Herpetic whitlow
  • Glomus tumor
  • Malignant melanoma
ICD-10 Codes


Diagnostic Guide Name


ICD 10 Diagnosis, Single Code, Left Code, Right Code and Bilateral Code

PARONYCHIA FINGER   L03.012 L03.011  

ICD-10 Reference

Reproduced from the International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, 10th revision, Fifth edition, 2016. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2016 https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/246208

Clinical Presentation Photos and Related Diagrams
  • Early paronychia with previous nail damage
    Early paronychia with previous nail damage
  • Late paronychia with dorsal blister from swelling
    Late paronychia with dorsal blister from swelling
  • Paronychia right index finger
    Paronychia right index finger
  • Gouty tophus not paronychia
    Gouty tophus not paronychia
  • Herpetic Whitlow (viral infection) Don't operate
    Herpetic Whitlow (viral infection) Don't operate
Redness, swelling and pain at the base of the fingernail
Sealing nail fold with nail polish or injury to nail fold
Typical History

The patient is usually complaining of a warm, red and painful area at the base of the fingernail. The patient may have a history of injury or that she/he recently had nails done. Fever is rare but can occur. There maybe purululent drainage from under the nail fold.

Positive Tests, Exams or Signs
Work-up Options
Treatment Options
  • Oral antibiotics and soaks
  • IV antibiotics
  • Topical steroids
  • Topical and systemic antifungal
  • Combination of topical steroid and antifungal
  • Surgical I & D with eponychial marsupialization with or without nail plate removal
  • Surgical I & D with en bloc excision of proximal nail fold (PNF)
  • Surgical I & D with en bloc excision of PNF with nail plate removal
  • Surgical I & D with Swiss roll technique
Treatment Photos and Diagrams
Paronychia Finger
  • Paronychia Long Finger
    Paronychia Long Finger
  • Paronychia Long Finger after I&D of nail fold and excision of proximal nail
    Paronychia Long Finger after I&D of nail fold and excision of proximal nail
CPT Codes for Treatment Options

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  • Secondary felon (pulp Abscess)
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Recurrences
  • Nail deformities
  • Topical steroids are more effective than are systemic antifungals.
  • In one study of patients who had en bloc excision of PNF with nail avulsion, 70% were cured; of those who had en bloc excision of PNF without nail avulsion, 41% were cured.1
Key Educational Points
  • Presence of vesicles suggests herpetic whitlow
  • Green coloration may suggest Pseudomonas
  • Nail plate hypertrophy may suggest fungal infection
  • Severe pain with nail plate elevation, bluish discoloration and blurring of the lunula suggests glomus tumor
  • A common culture in the chronic paronychia is C. Albicans.
  • Chronic paronychia is treated by eponychial marsupialization.
  • Herpetic Whitlow is a viral infection that requires treatment with antiviral medications and should NOT be treated with surgical incision and drainage.
  • Incision and drainage of a herpetic whitlow can cause the simple often self-limited viral infection of a digit to be complicated by an encephalitis.


  1. Grover C, Bansal S, Nanda S. En bloc Excision of proximal nail fold for treatment of chronic paronychia. Dermatol Surg 2006;32:393-8. PMID: 16640685

New Articles

  1. Allouni A, Yousif A, Akhtar S. Chronic paronychia in a hairdresser. Occup Med (Lond) 2014;64(6):468-9. PMID: 24985481
  2. Pabari A, Iyer S, Khoo CT. Swiss roll technique for treatment of paronychia. Tech Hand Up Extrem Surg 2011;15(2):75-7. PMID: 21606775


  1. Shafritz AB, Coppage JM. Acute and chronic paronychia of the hand. J Am Acad Orthop Surg 2014;22(3):165-74. PMID: 24603826
  2. Relhan V, Goel K, Bansal S, Garg VK. Management of chronic paronychia. Indian J Dermatol 2014;59(1):15-20. PMID: 24470654


  1. Hayward R. Chronic paronychia. Can Med Assoc J 1962;86(6):292. PMID: 20327031
  2. Lowden TG. Paronychia. Lancet 1953;1(6751):118-21. PMID: 13011975