Herpetic whitlow caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a painful finger infection that is highly contagious. Like any other form of skin infection, finger herpes or hand herpes spreads easily by direct contact with the infected person. The HSV virus most commonly infects the index finger or the thumb and rarely the toes. This infection is physically visible as blisters or lesions on the individual’s fingers that cause intense pain and discomfort.
The HSV virus is of two types – the HSV-1 and the HSV-2. The children showing symptoms of herpetic whitlow are almost always affected by HSV-1 which spreads in children who have a habit of thumb sucking. This happens when the kids have oral sores and the finger or thumb sucking gets them the finger infection. HSV 1 is also the cause of infection among health care workers or dental workers for possibly the same reason. These medical workers come in contact with the oral secretions of patients while treating them and the infection spreads on to their hands. HSV 2 virus usually attacks adults in the age group of 20 – 50 by direct contact with infected genitals. The worst thing about herpetic whitlow is that it is a self-limited disease. This implies that the infection heals on its own over a period of time. The treatment offered is to reduce the intensity of the symptoms and the pain rather than treating the infection. Prevention hence, is always a better option than cure when it comes to this viral finger infection.
A common problem with herpetic whitlow is the recurrence of infection. Since, the infection typically subsides on its own without any direct medication; there are good chances of a relapse without getting in direct contact with the virus again. Almost half the people who get affected by this infection may get recurrent infections. However, the recurrent infection is less painful and less severe. It may also not last as long as the initial infection.
Medical practitioners may prescribe certain drugs like the acyclovir that not only helps in relieving the symptoms but also helps in avoiding a recurrent infection. Common pain killer drugs like ibuprofen may work well to ease off the pain and discomfort however; it is always advised to consult a doctor or a legal medical practitioner before taking any medicines so as to be sure that there aren’t any side effects that may make the condition of herpetic whitlow even more unbearable.
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