Nail infections may be caused by bacteria, fungi, yeast or virus. The commonest nail infection is fungal nail infection. Fungal nail infection can affect the finger and toe nails. The nail plate may become brittle, thickened or completely destroyed. The dermatologist will prescribe an antifungal lotion or oral antifungal tablets to treat this condition.
Inflammation and infection of the nail fold is called paronychia. Damage to the nail fold occurs when there is injury such as habitual nail biting or constant wet work (such as in people whose hands are constantly exposed to water e.g. cooks, domestic helpers). Subsequent infection by bacteria or fungus causes painful swelling of the nail fold. If the infection has been there for a long time, the nail plate becomes deformed. Treatment of paronychia includes draining pus in the infected nail fold and oral antibiotics. Wearing impervious gloves during wet work helps to prevent paronychia.
Another common nail infection is periungual viral warts. This condition is caused by viral wart infection of the nail fold and nail bed. It best treated with laser surgery by a dermatologist.