A Cautionary Nail Tale

I have a nervous habit of biting my nails all the way down until I have stubby nails. It’s a habit that I haven’t shaken since I was a kid. Well, thanks to this past week, I’m pretty much gonna stop biting my nails. Here’s why:

About a week ago, I noticed that my left index finger was a little swollen and even hurt – like I’d slammed a door against it. I researched what it could be online (and yes, I know you shouldn’t do that because every symptom basically leads to death but I couldn’t help myself!) and I found what it could’ve been: Paronychia. Paronychia is basically a skin infection around your finger or toenails. It can be acute, which happens suddenly and doesn’t last long. It can also be chronic, which happens gradually, doesn’t get better, and keeps coming back. But for the sake of keeping this post short, I’ll focus on the acute one because SPOILER ALERT: That’s the one I got.

So anyway, acute paronychia is caused by bacteria that can get into the skin through biting, chewing, or picking on nails, picking out hangnails, or sucking on your fingers. Once the bacteria gets in, it grows and causes an infection. That’s what causes the finger to swell because pus can fill it.

So that’s what happened: I bit fingers all the way down to the quick and apparently got a cut in the skin that attaches to the nail. That or I bit my cuticle and that’s how it happened… Anyway, I just bit my nails down to the quick and it got infected. I had a particularly stressful work week and holiday season prior, so my nails and fingers were just raw from biting at them. But last week exactly, I noticed my finger looking like this:


It’s not the worst case of paronychia, but it still was irritating.


The fingerpad was fat and swollen and red.


The swollenness from the side view.

It really was a mild case and I thought I could live with it. So for two days (last Sunday and Monday) I just left it untreated. Well, not really. I took some Tylenol (didn’t really help) and soaked my finger in warm water for 20 minutes (kind of helped but not really). After talking to my sister, an RN, she said I should probably get it treated. So the next day, I went to an urgent care center (because my doctor’s office is always busy and I honestly didn’t know if they would do anything), and got it checked out. The physician assistant basically confirmed that it was paronychia and that it was treatable, and that a lot of people come in for the same thing (most people who get manicures and play around with their nails).

The treatment for this was basically numbing my finger and making an incision with a scalpel so that they could drain the pus out.


My index finger was basically numbed. You can see how fat it was. Also, at the base of my index finger, you can see a little blood. Good times.

The whole procedure took less than 20 minutes, but the waiting was forever, as you would expect. My finger was wrapped in dressing to let the pus drain and I was supposed to go back in for a follow-up.


Me with my finger wrapped in dressing.

So I went back the next day, after a full work day of not being able to type with my index finger – HARDEST thing to do when you have to be on the computer all day for work. I got cleaned up, bandaged, and the PA instructed me to continue to take my antibiotics until I’m done and how to take care of my cut. My sister, being a curious nurse, asked me to send her a picture of my wound. I’m gonna share it to show what it looks like, so if you don’t like seeing cuts or blood (like me), you can skip this next picture.


That was my cut the following day of getting my dressing off.


I’ve been taking care of it since Wednesday now. So this is an update of what it looks like now:


Looking better now. I took this pic today.

It’s feeling and looking a lot better now. I have about 5 days left of my antibiotics to take. But honestly, I think this experience helped me realize that I definitely have to drop this nail-biting habit. It was so uncomfortable and a little painful to work without using just ONE finger. People who have learned how to live without the use of even one small part of their body…man, it give it up to you guys because this is hard.

But yes, here’s to no nervous/stress-related nail biting.




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