Tumors of the Nails: Nail Disorders: Merck Manual Home Edition
Tumors of the Nails
Benign and malignant tumors can affect the nail unit, causing a deformity. These tumors include noncancerous myxoid cysts, pyogenic granulomas, glomus tumors, Bowen's disease (an early form of skin cancer), squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. When doctors suspect cancer, they perform a biopsy and may recommend complete removal of the tumor as soon as possible.
Hutchinson's sign—a black discoloration of the area around the nail, including the lunula (half-moon at the base of the nail), cuticle, and nail fold (the fold of hard skin overlapping the sides of the nail)—may mean there is cancer in the nail bed. When this sign is present, doctors perform a biopsy and begin treatment as quickly as possible.
Last full review/revision August 2007 by Wingfield E. Rehmus, MD, MPH
Your toenails and fingernails protect the tissues of your toes and fingers. They are made up of layers of a hardened protein called keratin, which is also in your hair and skin. Your nails' health can be a clue to your overall health. Healthy nails are usually smooth and consistent in color. Specific types of nail discoloration and changes in growth rate can signal various lung, heart, kidney and liver diseases, as well as diabetes and anemia. White spots and vertical ridges are harmless.
Nail problems that sometimes require treatment include bacterial and fungal infections, ingrown nails, tumors and warts. Keeping nails clean, dry and trimmed can help you avoid some problems. Do not remove the cuticle, which can cause infection.
National Institutes of Health
A paronychia is an infection of the skin that surrounds a toenail or fingernail. There are two different types of paronychia, acute and chronic:
An acute paronychia causes throbbing pain, redness, warmth and swelling in the skin around a nail. In some cases, a small collection of pus forms under the skin next to the nail, or underneath the nail itself. Often, only one nail is affected.
A chronic paronychia usually causes less dramatic symptoms than an acute paronychia. Typically, the area around the nail is tender, red and mildly swollen; the cuticle is missing; and the skin around the nail feels moist or "boggy." Several nails on the same hand may be affected at the same time.Diagnosis
If you have a mild acute paronychia, you usually can make the diagnosis yourself. Look for throbbing pain, swelling and redness in an area of damaged skin around a nail.
If you are diabetic, have several affected fingers or toes, or have severe symptoms (pus, fever, severe pain), you must be evaluated by a doctor. In most cases, your doctor can make the diagnosis by examining the affected area. However, if there is an accumulation of pus, the doctor may take a sample of the pus to be tested in the laboratory for bacteria or fungi.Expected Duration
How long a paronychia lasts depends on the type of paronychia. With proper treatment, an acute paronychia usually heals within 5 to 10 days. A chronic paronychia may require several weeks of antifungal medication. Even after proper medical therapy, a paronychia may return if you injure the skin again or forget to keep the nail area dry.Prevention
To prevent paronychia, try the following:
The type of treatment depends on the type of paronychia:
Call your doctor if you have symptoms of a paronychia and:
With proper treatment, the outlook is usually very good. In most cases, an acute paronychia heals within 5 to 10 days with no permanent damage to the nail. Rarely, very severe cases may progress to osteomyelitis (a bone infection) of the finger or toe.
Although a chronic paronychia may take several weeks to heal, the skin and nail usually will return to normal eventually. However, you must remember to apply medication as directed, and to keep the affected area dry.Additional Info
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Insitutes of Health
1 AMS Circle
Bethesda, MD 20892-3675
American Academy of Dermatology
P.O. Box 4014
Schaumburg, IL 60168-4014
American College of Foot and Ankle Orthopedics and Medicine
5272 River Road, Suite 630
Bethesda, MD 20816