Hangnail

What is hangnail?

Ever wondered what causes itchiness, soreness and aching around your fingernails. To some extent the skin around your nails becomes fuzzy and color gradually changes. Well, this could be as a result of an infection of the hangnail.

A hangnail can be explained as the loose piece of skin that appears on the bottom of the nail. The skin is sharp, rough and serrated. This is mostly evident on the fingernails and rarely appears on the toes except on some rare cases. Hangnails are generally confused as infected toes for which they are not. It refers to the detached piece of skin that hangs on the base of the fingernails.

Hangnail

Image 1: Hangnails

The condition is not rare as most people have hangnails at various times of their lives. In some people, hangnails are associated with chill conditions. This is the only time the condition affects them. This is as a result of skin dehydration thus making crack.

Causes of Hangnail

  • A trimming gone wrong. Cutting the cuticle unevenly could cause a hangnail.
  • Dehydration of the hands
  • Exposure of hands to long times in washing detergents.
  • Excessive contact with water.

However, hangnails are not a problem, their infection is. This is caused by growth of bacteria and fungi. Despite the nature of the condition, theses should not be left untreated. The process of healing can be done at home but if it worsens past this time, please do seek the services of a doctor. In such cases, they will be examined and treated accordingly.

Symptoms of an infected Hangnail

The signs of an infection of the hangnail cannot go unnoticed. Soon after infection, the symptoms will starting revealing themselves one after another. The overall ailment is commonly known as Paronychia. These range from:

  • Puffiness of the skin
  • Skin turns reddish
  • Itchy sensation
  • Mild pain
  • Puss in the blisters

Infected hangnail

Image 2: Infected hangnail

If the condition goes untreated, it may alter the appearance of the nail completely as it gets discolored. As if this is not enough, the condition may even spread to other parts of the hand and body.

However, the incubation period off the disease differs according to what resulted to the contraction of the illness. If the infection is as a result of fungal agents, which is more often than not, these will take time before they can fully express themselves. The case is different when it comes to bacterial infections. The signs and symptoms are revealed within no time. Unlike bacterial infections, fungal ones are common among those who have a history of diabetes and persons who spend a lot of time in contact with water.

Getting rid of infected Hangnails

One can easily take care of an infection themselves without having to consult a doctor. This is done at home by following certain directions to help ease and gradually. If all the steps are followed to the letter then within a few days to a week, the hangnails will be cured.

The procedure to be observed is as follows:

  • Wash the affected part with warm water twice a day. The soaking can take up to 15-20 minutes. This helps soften and loosen the hangnails.
  • The hangnails are soft after the soaking and can then be cut. The skin is trimmed from the edge, getting rid of the serrated parts first. The cut must be done evenly.
  • The affected part is then smeared with oil, preferably Vitamin E. This prevents the regeneration of another hangnail.
  • Rub the area with an antibiotic cream twice a day. It should remain covered to prevent pathogen entry.

Quite a number of persons do contrary to this. They tear the hangnail rather than cutting it evenly. This does not help at all but this deteriorates the condition even further. If symptoms persists for more than a week, it is advisable to see a physician.

Reason to consult a physician

Only if the symptoms persist should you see a doctor. Worsening of the condition can be expressed by observation of any strange signs. Among then should include:

  • Continued pain regardless of the whole week care.
  • Swelling of blisters that have pus when pricked
  • Evidence of spread to other parts.
  • Loosening of the nail and skin
  • If you are diabetic
  • Nail discoloration

serious hangnail infection

Image 3: A serious hangnail infection

Upon consulting a physician, they can tell the cause of the infection by just looking at the affected part. However, it is necessary to take samples of the pus from the blisters for lab analysis. This is important in deducing the root cause of the issue as well as eliminating it completely. The blisters are then pricked to get rid of the pus. This kick starts the healing process. This is followed by administering of antibiotics to kill the bacteria. These are in form of cream to apply or ingestible medication.

Consistency on the prescription will help bring the hangnails to a week within a week or so.

Point of view

Hangnails are a common problem amongst us. It is rampant among persons who are ever in contact with water or it is caused by drastic weather changes. Especially chilly weather has a lot of impact on the skin and may cause it to dry and crack from time to time.

Most cases will heal gradually without having to seek medical attention, but if the condition worsens, it is impossible to rule out visiting a doctor. In the occasion that you see a doctor, the ailment will be cured within no time.

Averting imminent infections

Prevention of an infection of the hangnail can only best be done by prevention the presence of one in the first place. It is no big deal to take precautionary action against this happening. This can be done by:

  • Keeping the hands moisturized to prevent dehydration
  • Avoid picking of the nail cuticle
  • Proper sanitation through hand washing
  • Wear gloves whenever you are to expose your hands in water for long
  • Do not cut back loose skin cuticles, rather push them back
  • Use clean and sterilized tools for you manicure. This reduces chances of bacterial infections. To some extent, sharing of these effects should be discouraged to prevent disease spread.

Hangnails are common and should be no cause for alarm as they are curable. However, it is better to escape having to deal with them by preventing their presence altogether.

 

References

  1. Hangnails. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/kids/nails/hangnails
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, December 6). Fingernails: Do’s and don’ts for healthy nails. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/nails/art-20044954?pg=1
  3. Woundcaresociety. (2016, May 26). Swollen finger treatment for hangnail infection. Retrieved from http://woundcaresociety.org/swollen-finger-treatment-hangnail-infection
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