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Confession of a reformed nail biter

Written By northidahodpc

Confession of a reformed nail biter

January 9, 2012

I used to be an avid nail biter.  I know, it doesn’t make sense…a doctor who, by virtue of his profession, had his fingers everywhere.  But from as early as I can remember, I always bit my nails, and pulled hangnails often to the point of bleeding.  Until I learned my lesson during medical training…

I had recently changed my oldest daughter’s dirty diaper, and a few days later developed a painful, infected nail cuticle known as a paronychia.  I went to the student clinic twice for two different types of antibiotics, and the infection, which turned out to be E. coli, finally cleared after about three weeks.  Fortunately, the infection did not need to be surgically drained.

Acute (sudden) paronychia is usually due to a bacterial infection, and is much more common in those who pick or bite their nails, as well as children who suck their thumbs.  The cuticle or the sides of the nail become red and tender, and often a pus pocket develops.  Diabetics and those with conditions that weaken the immune system seem to be more susceptible, as well as those who use nail polish.  Treatment is with antibiotics, warm soaks 3-4 times per day and sometimes incision and drainage of any adjacent purulence…..Richard R Samuel, MD     Family Practice and Urgent Care   Hayden, ID  USA

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