Herpetic whitlow also known as finger herpes or hand herpes is a viral infection of the fingers. The virus that causes this infection is the herpes simplex virus. This infection causes painful small pus filled blisters that usually appear in clusters on the finger and on and around the fingernail. This infection is very contagious and can be transferred easily to other body parts.
Herpetic whitlow can be a result of the finger touching a part of the body that is already infected by the herpes virus such as the mouth, the vagina, the penis or the anus. The virus can also be contracted by a healthy human touching someone’s body parts who has HSV. The virus usually gets into the finger by a crack in the skin on the finger or around the nail. Having a hangnail increases the risk, as it allows the virus to enter the fingernail bed and set up infection.
Certain people are more at risk of contracting the infection than others. Children are especially at a higher risk for contracting the painful virus. This is due to them sucking their fingers, and if they have a cold sore or other type of herpes virus activity in their mouth, the virus is easily transformed to the fingers. Healthcare workers such as those that work as a dentist are also at increased risk. They are at increased risk because they may place their hands into the mouths of patients who have herpes. Also health care workers who work in the field of obstetrics and gynecology are at a higher risk, as they can come into contact with patients who have genital herpes.
Symptoms of herpetic willow include burning, tingling, itching and pain at the site of infection. Clusters of fluid filled blisters that are usually bright red and are very itchy are another symptom. There may also be red streaks on the finger, fever, and swollen lymph nodes in the elbow and underarm areas.
The fluid filled blisters can take up to two weeks to heal. The healing period includes the blisters rupturing, crusting over and then finally going away until the next episode. There are certain things that can trigger an episode such as over-exposure to sunlight, illness, stress and surgical procedures.
Herpetic willow is a serious and painful infection whose risk can be minimalized with good personal care, testing for the herpes infection and precautionary measures such as wearing gloves.
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