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What Are the Common Causes of Fingernail Pus?

By Madeleine A.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Common causes of fingernail pus include bacterial infections, fungal infections, and yeast infections. In addition, an infection that produces fingernail pus is generally caused by an injury such as picking a hangnail or vigorously cutting the cuticles. In some cases, multiple infections that cause fingernail pus may be present at the same time, such as bacterial and fungal infections.

Fungal infections of the fingernail can cause a yellow to green nail discoloration, thick ridged nails, and fingernail pus. In addition, a fungal nail infection can cause the nails to become brittle and even fall off. The nails typically change shape and the finger can redden and swell. Sometimes, fungal nail infections can cause pain, but generally, if pain is present, it is usually mild.

Paronychia is the term used to describe an infection on the skin around the fingernails and toenails. Treatment for paronychia and subsequent fingernail pus includes soaking the affected finger in hot water three times daily to help reduce pain, swelling, and redness. In addition, the healthcare provider may recommend oral or topical antibiotics. In some cases, both oral and topical antibiotics will be used together to treat fingernail pus from an infection.

For nail infections caused by fungal agents, antifungal medications may be prescribed. Fungal infections may be more resistant to treatment than bacterial nail infections and may take up to three months or more to resolve. In addition, the nail may be lost due to a fungal infection and may not grow back for many months. Anti-fungal medications can cause side effects such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

An infection that produces fingernail pus can cause rare complications such as a blood infection, fever, chills and joint pains. These complications are more likely to occur when the entire course of prescribe antibiotics is not completed. It is important to note that when the healthcare provider prescribes antibiotics, all of them need to be consumed. If antibiotic treatment is discontinued before the course is completed, the infection may not go away or may even become worse.

People who have pus in or around their fingernails should never try to drain the pus themselves. Unless done by a healthcare provider in a sterile setting, draining the pus could lead to a serious infection. In addition, it can also lead to permanent scarring and tissue damage. Making sure that manicure and pedicure instruments are sterilized between use, properly caring for the fingernails and cuticles, and keeping the hands clean can cut down on the incidence of a fingernail infection.

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Discussion Comments
By literally45 — On Jun 14, 2013

@ankara-- Are you sure it's a fungal infection? It could also be due to psoriasis. It happened to my boyfriend.

If it is because of a fungal infection, you can use tea tree oil or apple cider vinegar. But if it's serious, you have to see a doctor. The pus might require draining or the nail might have to be partially removed. Especially if you're a diabetic or have circulatory problems, you cannot delay treatment for this. The infection might spread.

By bluedolphin — On Jun 13, 2013

How do I treat fingernail pus caused by a fungal infection aside from taking anti-fungal medications? I don't want to take anti-fungal drugs anymore. They're very hard on the liver.

By donasmrs — On Jun 12, 2013

I have a very bad habit of picking hangnails. I know I'm supposed to cut them but I always end up pulling them out and making the sides of my nails bleed.

I thought that I would be fine because I wash my hands often but somehow, I got my nail infected by picking the hangnail. First I noticed the odd odor coming from my nail and then I saw pus. It was gross and scary.

I went to see my doctor. She had the nurse clean the infection thoroughly and then prescribed me an antibiotic ointment. I used the ointment for five days and the infection went away.

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