A whitlow has been defined as a painful skin infection which usually appears on your fingers. Popularly called herpetic whitlow, it is caused by a virusknown as herpes simplex. There are two kinds of viruses that lead to herpetic whitlows. They are known as type 1 and type 2. It spreads through close contact (mainly through body fluid) with a person infected by the herpes simplex virus.


Whitlows occur because of infections that attack your fingers. This is caused by the herpes simplex virus and most people are affected by type 1 virus rather than type 2.

Here’s everything you should know about herpes infection.

Risk Factors

There are few factors that increase your risk of developing a herpetic whitlow. These are –

  • If you are already suffering from a cold sore or herpes infection and have touched the area thereby spreading the infection to other parts and increases your risk of whitlow.

  • Through close contact or touching sore or blister of an already infected person.

  • In case you have a weakened immunity, you are at a high risk of suffering from this condition. Read about 10 foods that help give your immunity a boost.


There are a few symptoms that will help you identify a whitlow.

  • You might feel a burning sensation on fingers. At times, it can be uncontrollable or even extreme.

  • There shall be swelling below the finger nails, which can be painful. Here are 11 expert tips for healthy nails.

  • You may observe a couple of blisters that are filled with fluid.

  • There can be redness all over the area (it can be quite severe in some cases).


Your doctor may ask you about symptoms experienced by you before examining. You will also be asked about any past history of herpes infections and also about any current infections affecting other areas of your body such as lips, mouth or even the genitals. If infections are recurring, your doctor will probably take a swab of that finger that has been afflicted. This might help in understanding your condition in a better manner and aid in deciding the right kind of treatment that is required.

Read more about blood tests: Understanding the different kinds.


Usually, herpetic whitlows don’t take longer than a month to recover and doesn’t require any expensive treatment. However, if you feel severe pain in the thumb or fingers, pain killers are usually recommended as they ease the painful sensation. Depending upon the severity of your condition, your doctor might prescribe anti-viral medicines. However, it is very important to consult a doctor and not self-medicate to avoid any serious complications.

Read about top 10 natural remedies to treat fungal infection in the nails.


If this condition is not treated, it may lead to spread to surrounding areas. Also, the chance of recurring is very high. It may afflict the finger or thumb region causing it become little sensitive or numb. Additionally, the risk of other fingers being affected is very high. Avoid rubbing your eyes when infected, as your eyes might also get infected. If you have infections incessantly and are not treated, scars might start to appear on your fingers.


You can always prevent whitlows from spreading to other parts of your body by following few simple steps on a regular basis. These are -

  1. Never touch infected area as you are more likely to spread the infection to other areas.

  2. You should cover up your fingers with a plaster when affected with whitlows.

  3. Try not to share towels with people infected with herpes virus (especially keep your towels clean on a regular basis and make sure you dry them well).

  4. Maintain proper hygiene and sanitation to be safe and prevent spread of the virus. Here are 10 hygiene tips every guy must follow!

  5. Do not wear your contact lenses if suffering from whitlow. You can instead use your spectacles for some time. Read about the art of contact lens maintenance.

  6. If your child has been affected with whitlow, encourage him or her not to suck the thumb to prevent spread of the infection.


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