Herpetic Whitlow

By | April 10, 2015

Herpetic whitlow is a painful infectious disease causing blisters on the fingers. HSV or herpes simplex virus causes this infection. The virus would gain entry into the skin through injury, cuts and broken skin. The infection is contagious and has every chance to spread to others. Some of the signs of herpetic whitlow infection are itching, pain, redness on the fingers along with fluid filled blisters. Some people can develop fever and swollen lymph nodes if the infection is severe.

Symptoms :

Herpetic whitlow affects your fingers primarily. Small sized blisters develop on the finger causing pain and irritation. It would cause burning pain and the infected finger will be warm and red in color. For severe cases, the person will lose sensation on the finger causing numbness. In addition some people can develop fever, body pain and enlargement of lymph nodes on the arms.

Causes :

Herpetic whitlow (as the name implies) is caused by herpes simplex virus. Both type 1 and 2 can cause infection. The infection gets transmitted through oral sex or by direct skin contact also. An individual having cuts or wounds on his finger can easily get this infection. When he touches the body fluids like mucus, feces or saliva of the infected person the virus can easily enter into his body. The person can also receive infection if virus is present elsewhere in his body. For instance if he touches the genital sores of his partner which is infected by HSV with his wounded finger, then he gets infected easily.

Who are at risk?

People working in health care industry like doctors, nurses and dentists are in constant touch with infected patients. They are likely to get infected if they have any cuts or injury on their fingers. People with weakened immunity like AIDS are more prone to develop herpetic whitlow than others. Women sex workers can easily develop infection by attending partners with infection.

Complications :

With repeated infections on the finger, your finger can become oversensitive. Sometimes it can become numb losing sensation completely. Herpetic whitlow infection can spread to other body parts like eyes or nose when the person touches the organ with infected finger. Scarring of skin can occur through repeated infections.

Diagnosis :

Your doctor will look for the above symptoms on physical exam. He will examine your finger thoroughly for blisters or bumps. He would order for blood test and urine analysis. If necessary he would do a biopsy of the infected finger to confirm the analysis.

Treatment :

Herpetic whitlow infection, under normal conditions will heal automatically without any treatment. Over the counter drugs for relieving pain can be taken. For people with chronic pain and inflammation your doctor would prescribe antiviral medications like acyclovir, famciclovir or valacyclovir. In addition to oral pills, your doctor would also prescribe topical acyclovir for quick healing of blisters.

Images, Pics, Photos and Pictures of Herpetic Whitlow :

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Lifestyle Changes :

  • Avoid having direct skin contact with people who are likely to have genital herpes or oral herpes infection.
  • Make sure that you are wearing gloves while examining patients if you are employed in hospital or clinic.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before taking food.
  • Once you have got the infection avoid touching other areas of your body with infected finger.
  • Do not share towels or personal items with others if you are already infected.

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