Herpetic whitlow (whitlow finger) is a painful finger infection that develops due to the herpes virus. The condition is treatable but can come back.
Herpetic whitlow symptoms
Herpetic whitlow can appear in any part of your finger, but it often affects your fingertip (top of your finger). The common symptoms include:
- Pain and swelling in your finger
- Sores or blisters on your finger
- Skin turning darker or red than usual skin tone
Herpetic whitlow causes
Herpes simplex causes herpetic whitlow, and you can develop the condition by touching another person’s blister or cold sore.
You are more likely to develop herpetic whitlow if you have had genital herpes or cold sores. You may also develop it through a weakened immune system (if you have diabetes or are undergoing chemotherapy). The first time developing, the condition will be more severe.
Things that will help through herpetic whitlow
- Keep your finger covered with a dressing and keep it clean.
- Don’t touch your infected finger; the infection can spread quickly through touching.
- Don’t touch other people or your other body parts with the infected finger.
- Take prescribed painkillers.
- Don’t drain the fluid; it might lead to infection spread.
- Don’t use contact lenses; you might spread the infection to your eye.
The condition can come back
Once you have the herpes virus, it will stay in your body for the rest of your life. Though the condition is rare, if you get it once, the chances of developing it again will increase. There is not much to prevent herpetic whitlow, but it is similarly treatable if it comes back.
Reviewed by – Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD Microbiology
Page last reviewed: 16 JULY 2022