What is Herpetic Whitlow?
Herpetic Whitlow is a skin infection caused by the Herpes simplex virus (HSV). It usually appears on the end of a finger, most often on the index finger, or the thumb. It can affect more than one finger at a time.
Herpetic Whitlow can be spread through skin-to-skin contact from another person who has active symptoms of HSV. For example, if you have a cut on your finger and you come into contact with someone who has an open HSV blister. HSV can spread to your finger or thumb from a different part of your body that is infected such as your genitals (genital herpes).
What are symptoms of herpetic whitlow?
Symptoms of herpetic whitlow mostly affect your finger or thumb. They include:
• A burning or tingling sensation
• Swelling and redness
• One or a group of small fluid- or pus-filled blisters
• Pain, which can be severe
Once symptoms start, they last between 7 to 10 days. After this, the blisters will begin to crust over and heal and symptoms will begin to improve.
What are the causes of Herpetic Whitlow?
Herpetic Whitlow can be caused by two different types of herpes simplex virus either HSV-1 or HSV-2. The common strain found in people with Herpetic Whitlow, about 6 in 10, is caused by HSV-1. In about 4 in 10 people, it is caused by HSV-2.
In children, Herpetic Whitlow is generally caused by HSV-1. This can happen if a child has a cold sore (oral herpes) and sucks his or her thumb or fingers. The HSV can then spread through a small cut in the skin.
What is the treatment for Herpetic Whitlow?
Herpetic Whitlow usually clears up by itself within three to four weeks, so any treatments from your GP will be to relieve your symptoms and to stop the infection spreading to other areas of your body.
What is the prevention of Herpetic Whitlow?
The best practice to reduce your risk of getting Herpetic Whitlow is by avoiding exposure to people with active symptoms of HSV. For example, a healthcare worker who regularly has contact with people with open HSV-infected sores, should always wear gloves and wash hands thoroughly. If a child has cold sores around his or her mouth, make sure to wash your hands immediately after contact with active sores. Also, Herpetic Whitlow can be spread from sexual contact with genital herpes, so it is best to avoid sexual contact until the infection has cleared up.
If Herpetic Whitlow starts, the infection can be controlled from spreading to other areas of your body or to other people by not:
• Touching the infected area instead, cover it with a bandage
• Holding hands
• Sharing towels or flannels that have come into contact with the infected area
• Wearing contact lenses instead, wear glasses because it is possible to contaminate your lenses with HSV and spread it to the eyes
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