Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Last month, I had a paronychia* in my left index finger's cuticle. Thankfully, it never localized into a pus collection, so I was able to successfully treat it with just warm water soaks.
The new part of my nail is now growing out scarred and yellowed. The tip of my finger was pretty swollen with this infection, so the nail also was forced to grow over the swelling, resulting in a sizable curve in the middle (it looks "clubbed," for you medical folk). It is thin and weak, and the edges keep tearing on surfaces a normal nail should be impervious to - the edge of a mitten, the corner of a towel, the edge of a latex glove.
I don't consider myself a particularly appearance-obsessed person, but this unsightly, frayed nail bothers me. I've come to realize that I use this finger quite frequently: I'll tap at papers with test results, computer screens with interesting information, my iPad to open a medical app. I'm so self-conscious about this ugly nail that I am constantly checking to see if my patients and learners are looking at the nail instead of the information it's directing them to.
I don't want the nail to distract them, and, I have to admit, I don't want the nail to falsely suggest that I'm unhygienic or diseased in some way. I don't like to paint my nails (too high maintenance for me), but I've considered it only to worry that the chemicals in the polish will weaken the nail further. I tried covering it with a band-aid, but the medical people out there know how annoying band-aids are when you're washing your hands fifty times a day.
My rational self reminds me that it's unlikely anyone is paying much attention to the nail; it hasn't garnered one comment yet. It does serve as yet another reminder that doctors are prone to the same annoyances of minor illness as every one else. Like everyone else who's ever had a paronychia, too, I will just have to wait for a new nail to grow in.
Ah, yet another opportunity to cultivate patience. *sigh*
* for non-medical readers: a paronychia is a cuticle infection. Here's some cool (or gross, depending on your point of view) pics: