Whitlow is a painful infection of the nail bed, it is often found on the fingers near the nails. It is called ‘weaklo’ in lay terms.
It occurs when the skin or cuticle at the nail bed is broken and it comes directly in contact with infected body fluids. When the infection is caused by a virus it is known as Herpetic Whitlow.
It could also be caused by fungal or bacterial infection where it is known as “Paronychia.”
Generally, it is common with people who immerse their hands in water often such as domestic staff, health workers (who need to touch the skin of other people), children (through finger sucking) and housewives.
Whitlow is contagious, it can be passed from one person to another through the use of common hand towels, flannels and general utensils.
Initial symptoms include pain, burning or tingling sensation in the affected finger, with associated fever or malaise, followed by swelling, redness and discharge of fluid.
Frequent immersion of hands in water
Minor trauma to the nail or nail bed
Fixing of artificial nails
Exposure to chemicals or irritants
Herpetic whitlow is a self-limiting illness and often resolves on its own within 10-14days provided there is no superimposed bacterial infection.
Treatment is usually geared towards symptomatic relief, antiviral medications either topical (creams) or oral (pills) may be prescribed but not commonly.
Antibiotics are used for treatment of paronychia or bacterial infection.
There are a few home remedies that could help:
Soak the fingers in warm antiseptic solution. Dip the finger into the solution for fifteen minutes thrice daily.
Dip the finger into a cut lemon for ten minutes twice daily.
DO NOT place the finger in hot water, fire or on a hot pot or stove.
Cover the area with Magnesium Sulphate and wrap with a bandage and change periodically.
If the Whitlow ripens and bursts, press and expunge all the pus in the finger, then clean well with methylated spirit, put some pure honey and wrap with bandage.
Eat fruit and veggies to help your body heal itself faster.
Always use clean towels and change all clothing if you are suffering from genital or oral herpes.
Avoid direct contact with exposed herpetic lesions, including genital lesions or cold sores.
Avoid sucking or chewing the thumb or fingers
Avoid nail biting
Avoid sharing nail care instruments such as nail cutter, nail file and cuticle remover.
Take care while cutting the nails so as to avoid skin cut.
Develop the habit of washing hands frequently
Safe sex should be practised
A healthy diet always helps accelerate recuperation.
Whitlow is preventable and very easily treatable however failure to treat it properly can result in permanent damage or loss of the finger.
Have a good one.