Paronychia occurs almost exclusively in women, particularly in those who work as householders. The main cause of the condition is having hands in and out of water, which damages the cuticles. Cuticles provide major protection to the nail growth plate, and once they are inflamed an effective barrier to infection is removed. As a result, Candida and other bacteria can invade. The other main cause of this condition is pushing back the cuticles when the nails are manicured. For some reason, women and manicurists seem to view the cuticle as an ugly structure and so try to remove it, thus contributing to nail fold infections.
Paronychia is totally preventable. When manicuring the nails the cuticles should not be pushed back or tampered with. When doing wet work cotton gloves should be worn inside rubber or vinyl gloves to protect both the nails and the nail folds. After washing your hands, it is best to dry the nails with a hair dryer. Using clear nail polish over the nail fold and cuticle provides a physical barrier to water and infection. The clear nail polish can be re-applied each day without first being removed, as nail polish removers irritate the cuticles.
Paronychia often takes six to nine months to clear if all the preventative measures are strictly adhered to. Anti-fungal paints can be helpful and, in severe cases, when the nail fold is very swollen, oral antibiotics are necessary.