Whitlow is a type of infection on finger tips caused by bacteria and viruses. Patient suffering from whitlow has unbearable pain on the tip of the affected finger. The pain is throbbing and bursting in nature. With severe pain, patient is unable to perform his daily activities. The finger tip becomes red, sore and boggy due to presence of pus.
Whitlow can occur in one or more than one finger at a given time. In some patients, whitlow is gradual in onset while in few others, it is acute and sudden. Prompt treatment with antibiotics, painkiller will help to enhance the healing in case of bacterial infection. For herpes virus infection, anti viral therapy will reduce the days of suffering. Pain and other symptoms can be curtailed if treatment is begun at the onset of the disease.
What Causes A Whitlow On Finger?
The infection occurs due to cuts and cracks on finger tips and the cuticle of nail bed. Bacteria and viruses easily enter and multiply through cuts on finger tip. The two main germs isolated from discharge of whitlow are staphylococcus bacteria and herpes virus.
Whitlow is common among people who have to work in water for several hours in a day. Therefore, housewives, waiters, and bartenders, nurses are more prone to this painful condition. Improper manicure procedure can tear the nail cuticle. Thus it becomes easy for the pathogens to enter through the cuticle.
Working in water for long duration regularly makes the upper layer of skin weak and fluffy. Repeated washing of hands with soap robs away the skin oil. Both these factors trigger cracks and fissures on finger tips. Bacteria and viruses enter easily as fingers come in contact with several contaminated things daily.
Diabetics often suffer from whitlow. The infection is also common in children who have habit of sucking their finger and thumb.
Besides bacteria, whitlow can also occur due to herpes virus. The causative virus is mainly herpes simplex virus 1. The virus enters through the cuts and bruises on finger tip. If a normal person having cuts on finger tips comes in contact with body fluid of an infected person, he is at a risk of suffering from herpetic whitlow.
Everyone who comes in contact with bacteria and viruses may not suffer from whitlow, but people who have low immune status are at a risk. Dentists, hospital nursing staff, diabetics, HIV patients or people who have the habit of biting their nails can suffer from whitlow on finger caused due to herpes virus.
How To Treat Whitlow On Finger?
Most patients seek immediate treatment for whitlow on finger because of unbearable pain. Doctors usually prescribe anti inflammatory painkillers and antibiotics for alleviating the condition. After few days of treatment, the condition gets completely cured in case of bacterial infection.
Sometimes if antibiotic effect is insufficient, whitlow may require surgical incision and drainage. Thereafter regular bandage and dressing for few days will cure the problem.
In case if it is herpetic whitlow, anti viral medication act upon the DNA of the virus and reduce the period of infection.
Besides regular conventional treatment, there are several home remedies that may be useful. However, its effect is more pronounced if the remedies are followed in the beginning stage of whitlow formation.
- Keep your affected finger in a bowl filled with warm water. You can add few drops of Echinacea mother tincture or few drops of anti septic solution. Keep the fingers in warm water for 15 minutes two to three times in a day. It helps to resolve the swelling as well as alleviate pain.
- Apply a poultice prepared by mixing wheat flour and jagary. Keep the poultice overnight and remove it next morning. Repeat the same for few more days till the abscess matures and drains easily.