Herpetic Whitlow is an infection caused by a herpes simplex virus (HSV) that affects the hands. It can either be caused by HSV-1 (the cold sore virus) or HSV-2 (the genital herpes virus). Infections with HSV are very contagious and are easily spread by direct contact with infected skin lesions. HSV infection usually appears as small blisters or sores around the mouth, nose, genitals, or buttocks. Infections can develop almost anywhere on the skin. These tender sores may recur periodically in the same area. Medline Plus reports that the condition most commonly affects health care professionals and children. Proper treatment for the condition requires a doctor’s visit for diagnosis, followed by the administration of prescription medications.
Signs and Symptom
The most common locations for Herpetic Whitlow include the thumb or index finger.
The symptoms for Herpetic Whitlow last for approximately two to twenty days after initial exposure the infected area develops burning, tingling, and pain. Over the next week or two, the finger becomes red and swollen. Small fluid-filled blisters develop, often clustered together on a bright red base. The blisters usually rupture and scab over, leading to complete healing after an additional 2 weeks.
Other symptoms occasionally associated with the primary infection of herpetic whitlow include fever, red streaks radiating from the finger, swollen lymph nodes in the elbow or underarm area and pain upon sun exposure.
Treatment of Herpetic Whitlow
First of all visit your doctor for a suspected herpes infected finger. Your doctor may confirm your diagnosis by taking a sample from an active sore or through blood tests. Apply a topical medication if one is prescribed for management of the first outbreak of herpetic whitlow. Take oral anti-viral medications as prescribed by your doctor at the beginning of future outbreaks. The advantage of visiting a doctor for this condition is that prescription medications can be on hand to manage future symptoms and is key in limiting the length and severity of an outbreak. Take over-the-counter painkillers to manage pain associated with herpetic whitlow.
Be careful not to touch others with a herpes infected finger during an outbreak. Also, exercise caution when touching other parts of your body during an outbreak, as you risk spreading the infection. Do not touch the infected area outside of treatment. Cover the infected area with bandages. Avoid touching other body parts (for example, your eyes, nose, and mouth) with infected fingers. Wear glasses instead of contact lenses to avoid transmitting the virus to your eyes. Health care providers should use gloves, observe universal fluid precautions and limit contact with patients or patient environments until blisters on the fingers heal. By observing these precautions, one can quickly heal from Herpetic Whitlow.
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