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Monday, July 13, 2020

My $1.00 Cuticle Infection Cure

The term paronychia isn't familiar to a lot of people, but unfortunately, it's all too familiar to me.

Basically, the term refers to an infection of the cuticle area, or thereabouts in general, and it can really put a damper on your day.  People have been washing their hands a lot over the last number of months -- some due to strong encouragement, but others have just increased what they naturally are inclined to do.  No one who knows me at all would argue that I don't fall into that latter category.  I'm a very, very frequent hand washer (yes, think OCD).  Ironically, however, it seems that frequent hand washing can, by some peculiar mechanisms, put a person at greater risk for developing paronychias.

I believe I'm as qualified as anyone to make this pronouncement.  I think I developed my first paronychia a good 20 years or so ago, although it may have been connected with mopping out a wet basement after flooding, and having my hands immersed in dirty water for a long period of time (no, I didn't perceive any danger then, as the very young seldom do).  For many years thereafter I didn't have any more of these infections, and I had frankly forgotten about them.  When I took on the job as a manager for a gym, however, things radically changed.  As we were invariably short-staffed, I ended up having to do a lot of the cleaning: cleaning up after people, wiping things down, and, of course, the unsavory but unavoidable necessity of very often cleaning the restrooms (and this was all pre-pandemic dirtiness).  Naturally, this entailed washing my hands even more, often with little time for even allowing them to dry.  I believe that a combination of factors resulted in me developing paronychias again -- and with uncomfortable regularity, no less.

If you've never had a paronychia, trust me, you don't want one.  I've only every had them on the tips of my thumbs and index fingers, and I've concluded that this is mainly because those digits are used far more than others.  I've seen that mine always start out right at the corner of the nail's edge; I've suspected that the corner punctures the skin just enough to let some type of bacteria or fungus (could be Candida yeast, but who knows for sure) in, and it begins to fester very progressively.  Once it begins, merely washing your hands doesn't seem to clean it out.  And the more you try to do, automatically, with your hands, the more you aggravate it.  You can end up with a very swollen and red fingertip, and the discomfort can be so considerable that it effectively impairs some of your functioning.

In attempting to deal with a paronychia, you'll heal all sorts of suggestions, and believe me, I've tried them all.  Most often they recommend soaking the digit it a variety of solutions, usually using warm to even hot water as the base, and with anything from Epsom salts to apple cider vinegar to lemon juice added to or dissolved in the water.  Honestly, I've never found any of these standard soaking methods to work.  The only relief I've ever found from the discomfort of an acute paronychia was to soak the fingertip in 99% DMSO (one needs to be sure the finger is very well-cleaned before attempting this, as if there's soap or anything else left on your skin, the DMSO will carry this literally through your skin and into your bloodstream).  DMSO is a very controversial substance which, as a topic, would require far greater elaboration than is feasible here, but I figured its very strong anti-inflammatory potential would help the situation, and it did, for me.  But just relieving the inflammation isn't actually curing the paronychia, and since I began getting these irritating infections with some frequency, I looked for another solution.
At around this time, at my regular forays to a local Dollar Tree store, I had noticed a product on the shelf -- Dr. Sheffield's Psoriasis Medicated Moisturizer Skin Cream.  It was a 1-ounce tube of the product, boxed up in some nice explanatory packaging.  I was curious about it, and when I looked on the package to see the active ingredient, it listed a full 2% of salicylic acid.  I took immediate note of this, and wondered if it could perhaps help me with these paronychias.  I had known that many topical over-the-counter remedies for common skin infections (such as plantar warts) used salicylic acid as the active ingredient.  For a dollar, I figured, there would be no harm in trying.  And for sure, was I glad I did try.  
When I first began using this particular cream on my paronychias, I was surprised at how soon they began to heal.  If they were already really bad, it would take a number of days to start to clear up; I would apply the cream very liberally at night, and I would often cut the index finger (or thumb, if it was on a thumb) of a disposable glove, squirt some of the cream into the tip, and then insert my finger or thumb into this makeshift protective sleeve, which would keep the cream from rubbing off onto the bed sheets throughout the night.  I can conclusively say, it worked, when nothing else did.

After a number of successes with the cream when the paronychias were well underway, I soon found that if I applied some of the cream to the cuticle area whenever I would begin to sense a paronychia might be developing, I could effectively nip it in the bud, and it would not progress further provided I caught it in time.  I didn't even have to use the glove tip, as long as I detected it early enough, and just applied even a little of the cream into the groove of my fingertip at night.  I always have a tube of the Dr. Sheffield's cream on hand now, and since I started using it, I've not had a full-blown paronychia since.

I actually think this Dr. Sheffield's Psoriasis Medicated Moisturizer Skin Cream is very likely useful for a lot of skin issues, thanks to its relatively high salicylic acid content.  You could also probably even use it as a nightly face cream, to speed up skin renewal, but its acid content (salicylic acid is a well-known beta hydroxy acid) might even be a little too strong for some skins, and/or if you're going out in the sun the next day.  And if you don't have a Dollar Tree in your area, there's always Amazon (though you'll pay quite a bit more than a mere dollar for it there, unfortunately, because they don't currently sell it in single tubes).  Thank you very much, Dr. Sheffield.

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