Herpetic Whitlow or Herpes on Finger is very painful infection, created by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The infection may appear in children or adults.
Herpes infection around the fingernail, officially called Herpes Whitlow, is characterized by painful blisters around the fingernail.
When patients have cold sores on their body and bite their fingernails, they transfer the virus from the mouth to the finger area. And they end up with Herpetic Whitlow or Herpes on Finger (HSV – 1) infecting the skin cells around the fingernail area.
Occasionally the infection can occur on the toes or the nail cuticle. It can also be caused by HSV – 2 or genital herpes.
HSV – 1 Whitlow is also contracted by health care workers that come in contact with the virus; it is almost commonly contracted by dental workers and medical workers exposed to oral secretions.
Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Herpes on Finger
The herpes simplex virus or HSV cause the infection. A painful wound called whitlow generally appears on the fingers.
Herpetic whitlow usually occurs on the thumb or index finger’s fleshy area. Sometimes, the infection can manifest on the toes.
Whitlow finger lesions are usually small but quite painful.
As the herpes simplex virus infects the finger and forms a whitlow, specific symptoms that are characteristic to other herpes infections will appear:
- Time. The first symptoms generally occur 2-20 days before the exposure of the virus.
- Sensation. Infected areas will manifest a burning and tingling sensation, although the infected individual would begin to feel pain before the lesions show up.
- Infection. The finger then begins to redden and swell while the infection progresses. Blisters will start to appear and fill with pus and liquid. They may be single or multiple blisters.
- Rupture. Such blisters will burst and then scab in the following weeks. After the scabs heal, there will be a dormant state where the infection temporarily ceases.
Other symptoms that may occur during the infection include:
- Swollen lump nodes in the elbow or armpits
- Red marks around the whitlow
The sores may recur in some individuals through time. Whitlow usually reappears in the same areas of infection.
Recurrent infections usually have the same pattern as the primary infection.
Infected individuals will experience tingling, itching, and burning sensations for 24 hours before the sores reappear.
Recurring infections usually last about a week and isn’t as intense as the primary infection. Some blisters may reappear, and such blisters can be smaller and less painful.
Risks and Causes
Herpetic whitlow is quire contagious.
Infections spread easily through direct contact with blisters and sores of an infected person. An infected individual can also transfer the infection to their fingers upon direct contact with their own genital herpes or cold sores with their fingers.
Whitlow must be adequately treated. If left unchecked, the infected individual can acquire other conditions or superinfections like herpetic encephalitis wherein the herpes virus infects the brain.
Antiviral medications are available to treat herpetic whitlow. Such antivirals are quite effective at minimizing the symptom’s duration during primary infection along with the recurrent infections.
It is imperative to start antiviral treatment as soon as the symptoms occur – within 48 hours to be exact.
Later than that and the anti-viral may have little effect as the infection worsens.
Antiviral treatment helps reduce the time for pain and healing. Antiviral treatment also reduces the chances of the virus spreading to different parts of the body.
If the person doesn’t take antiviral medications, the infection will heal itself after a few weeks.
Treatment for whitlow finger may involve tropical creams and medications.
Commonly used antiviral treatment for perspective whitlow include agents like:
- oral acyclovir
- oral valacyclovir
- topical acyclovir ointment
- oral famciclovir
- analgesics to reduce pain
Antiviral drugs are generally utilized for a couple for weeks until healing. Under circumstances wherein the whitlow leads to secondary bacterial infections, your physician may require anti-biotics.
On certain occasions wherein people have severe recurrent outbreaks, suppressive medications may be necessary.
Patients must take daily suppressive antiviral medications to decrease the outbreaks.
It’s essential to remember that anti-viral medications help treat herpetic whitlow outbreaks, but they’re incapable of preventing future outbreaks.
These antiviral drugs do not treat the HSV itself – they only treat the symptoms.
If you are suffering from a herpetic whitlow infection, it would be plausible to discuss your symptoms and treatment with a certified health care professional. Do not hesitate to work out a plan that addresses your needs and makes treatment a more convenient experience for you.
Also Read :
- A Fast and Comprehensive Guide to Herpetic Whitlow (Whitlow Finger)
- Epidemiology of Herpes Whitlow
- Insider Secrets on Herpetic Whitlow