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An infection growing on your foot is bound to be painful. Since most of a person’s day requires them to use their feet, it can get quite unbearable. Even more so if the bacterial infection targets your toe. That is to say, if your toe looks red, swollen, and extremely tender, then you most likely are dealing with a case of paronychia.

What is Paronychia?

The best way to describe paronychia is that it is a nail infection. One that most commonly develops as a result of bacterial buildup. It has the tendency to grow around the cuticle, right under the skin.

When bacteria finds its way inside your skin, be it through a cut or exposed area, it nestles there and expands. This can cause your toe to swell up, leaving behind a tender spot at the corner of your nail.

Ultimately, paronychia makes everyday acts like walking, cycling, playing sports, etc., extremely difficult. But thankfully, it isn’t a serious health concern since you can effectively treat it via antibiotics and antifungal creams.


Sometimes, you might not even realize you’re suffering from a bacterial toe infection. Due to the soreness, most people brush it off as overworking their feet. However, if not taken care of in due time, paronychia can advance, leading to pus gathering around the toenail.

Moreover, it is not as usual for paronychia to grow in feet, which is why identifying the symptoms in time can be a game-changer. If your toe looks swollen and infected, take into account the following signs. These will help ensure that you really are dealing with a case of paronychia:

  1. Skin Discoloration
  2. Cracked or Yellowed Toenail
  3. Pus-filled Abscess near the Nail
  4. Throbbing
  5. Warm and Tender Skin
  6. Pain upon Contact
  7. Swollen Big Toe

How Do You Treat A Bacterial Toe Infection?

Considering how bacterial toe infection arises as an aftermath of pulling on a hangnail, the treatment is also equally as easy. However, you need to be very careful with an infection like paronychia. Although it isn’t severe, a toe infection can be both chronic and acute.

Chronic infections are known to be dangerous if not properly treated. This is why it is best to tackle them as soon as possible. Mentioned below are a few ways you can treat your big toe if it is swollen and infected.

  1. Soak your feet in warm, salted water.
  2. Apply petroleum jelly over the affected area.
  3. Use an antifungal cream.
  4. Take over-the-counter pain relievers.
  5. Get your toe evaluated by a medical expert.
  6. Finish a course of medically-prescribed antibiotics.

Bottom Line

Simply put, a bacterial toe infection is nothing if not annoying. Whether you’re dealing with acute paronychia or chronic, as long as you identify it earlier on and can take care of it, you will have nothing to worry about.

For more information, reach out to Sharaf Diwan, MD, at (832) 604-0005. You can also drop by our clinic at 18220 TX-249 #230, Houston, TX 77070. We’re located at the Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital.

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