Many people might suffer with an infected finger, but when it comes to the condition called Herpetic Whitlow, the pain and discomfort is quite paramount. This intensely painful infection affects the fingers mostly the index finger or the thumb and rarely affects the toes. Typically, it is a form of skin infection that is seen as blisters or lesions on the tips of the fingers. Unlike most finger infections that are caused by bacteria, herpetic whitlow is caused by a virus known as the herpes simplex virus.
The herpes simplex virus has two forms – the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and the herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2). Most people (about six in 10) diagnosed with this ailment are those who are infected by the HSV-1. Whereas the remaining people i.e. four in ten are infected by HSV-2. When it comes to children, HSV-1 virus is almost always the cause. Some children tend to have the habit of sucking their thumb and if these children have a cold sore (or oral herpes); their thumb-sucking can give them herpetic whitlow. HSV-1 also affects the health workers or medical practitioners who regularly come in contact with the oral secretions of patients. As a matter of fact, this medical condition was regarded as an occupational risk for health care workers way back in 1959.
In adults, who usually belong to the age group of 20-40, the HSV-2 virus is the main cause of the infection and it is contracted when the individuals gets in contact with infected genitals. Finger herpes, as it is commonly known, is a cutaneous infection that is initiated by viral inoculation of the host that can be due to direct skin-to-skin contact or exposure to infected skin lesion. Once the virus infects the person, an incubation period of 2-20 days is common for the virus to set in and invade the cells of the dermis and subcutaneous tissue. The initial symptoms of the infection could be fever but the prominent symptoms include:
• Burning or tingling sensation on the infected finger
• Swelling, redness followed by itching
• One or more pus-filled blisters
• Exuberating pain in the infected area
• Swelling under armpits and lymph nodes
The symptoms indicating herpetic whitlow don’t appear immediately after you get infected by the virus. They appear over a period of time and may make you feel generally unwell and feverish initially. There is also a possibility that the virus stays inactive for up to three weeks showing no visible symptoms of the infection. Once the symptoms begin to show up, it takes around 7-10 days for the blisters to appear on the fingers. A careful examination of the infected fingers and symptoms will let the health care provider diagnose herpetic whitlow and provide medication accordingly.
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