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Hangnails: What Causes Them and How To Get Rid of Them

Hangnails can be painful and annoying. Learn why they happen and what you can do to help them clear.

Read on

Hangnails occur on one of the most nerve-ending dense areas of your body - your fingers.

So, even though they are small and might not look like much, these little jagged bits can be pretty irritating.

In this article, we will cover just what hangnails are, what causes them, how to tell if it is infected, and how to get rid of them.

Read Related: 11 Things That Can Cause Brittle Nails

What is a hangnail?

Despite the “nail” in the name, hangnails are not actually part of your nail at all.

Hangnails are little jagged dry pieces of skin surrounding the nail that tend to stick up at just the right angles to snag on everything.

Hangnails can occur on the toes as well, but this is much less common.

What causes a hangnail?

Hangnails tend to occur when the fingertip area is overly dry, overly wet, or has lots of trauma to it on a regular basis.

Things that may cause hangnails include:

  • Cold weather
  • Over-washing your hands
  • Chemicals coming into contact with your hands
  • Prolonged water exposure (washing dishes, jobs involving water)
  • Hard manual labor with ungloved hands
  • Picking at your nails
  • Nail-biting
  • Cutting nails too short
  • Sucking on your fingers

How to treat a hangnail:

Step one to treating a hangnail is what you don’t do.

Do not pick or rip hangnails, as they will likely just peel further and become more painful while increasing your risk of infection.

If the area is very painful you may take oral over the counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help reduce the pain.

1. Wash the hangnail area

2. Soften the fingertips in warm soapy water for a few minutes

3. Apply mineral oil or petrolatum to further soften the hangnail

4. With clean small scissors or nail clippers, clip off only the dead skin area of the hangnail. If you trim a little too deep this area may bleed.

5. Cover with an antibacterial ointment and apply a bandage if a wound is created.

6. If the hangnail seemed to clip off cleanly without any bleeding or opening, then moisturize the area.

Also Read: 7 Ingrown Fingernail Treatments To Try at Home

How to tell if a hangnail is infected:

Sometimes by the time you find a hangnail it has already become infected.

Signs that your hangnail is infected include:

  • Redness
  • Inflammation
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Warmth
  • Bleeding
  • A pus-filled lump

Infected hangnails may be bacterial or fungal, and a doctor may recommend that you apply an antibacterial or antifungal medication to help heal the area.

If there is a pus-filled abscess on the hangnail, this will need to be professionally drained and your doctor will possibly prescribe an oral antibiotic to prevent further infection.

If you suspect your hangnail is infected, go see your doctor for treatment to avoid the spread of infection.

Strut Nail Formula

Sometimes a fungal infected hangnail may be caused by the spread of an untreated nail fungus.

If you suspect that you have a nail fungus, this will need to be treated by a professional as these infections are very stubborn.

Have a free Online Questionnaire-Based Visit with our doctors today to see if Strut Nail Formula is the right option for your nail fungus issues.

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