What causes a whitlow?
Whitlow is caused by infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is more common and is often contracted during childhood. It is usually associated with cold sores and blisters on the lips, mouth or face. HSV-2 is slightly less common. It is primarily transmitted sexually and usually causes sores in the genital area. However, both types can occur in either location.
Both types of HSV can cause herpetic whitlow. Your finger may become infected with the HSV virus when broken skin on the fingers, such as a minor cut, comes in contact with HSV-infected bodily fluids. These fluids may come from your own body, if you have a herpes simplex virus infection elsewhere in your body, or from someone else who has a herpes simplex virus infection. For example, touching oral or genital sores caused by HSV infection on yourself or another person may cause a whitlow.
What are the risk factors for whitlow?
A number of factors increase the risk of developing whitlow. Not all people with risk factors will get whitlow. Risk factors for whitlow include:
- Career in a health care profession such as dentistry or nursing
- Herpes simplex virus 1 or 2 infection
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
Reducing your risk of whitlow
You may be able to lower your risk of whitlow or prevent the spread of herpes simplex virus to others by:
- Avoiding chewing or sucking on your fingers or thumbs
- Avoiding direct contact with open herpes lesions, including cold sores or genital lesions
- Avoiding nail biting
- Practicing safe sex (use condoms or dental dams)
- Using gloves when in contact with body fluids, especially if you are in a health care profession
What is a whitlow?
A whitlow is a painful infection on the fingers caused by the herpes simplex virus. It is also known as herpetic whitlow.... Read more about whitlow introduction
What are the symptoms of whitlow?
Symptoms of whitlow primarily affect the fingers, but other general body symptoms may accompany your finger symptoms and may indicate a severe infection.... Read more about whitlow symptoms
How is whitlow treated?
In many cases, a whitlow infection will heal without treatment after two to three weeks. Although there is no treatment that will eliminate herpes simplex virus from your body, your health care provider may suggest medications to improve the symptoms of whitlow.... Read more about whitlow treatments