Herpetic whitlow (whitlow finger) is a painful ailment brought on by the herpes simplex virus. This affects the fingers and appears as painful sores or blisters.

Herpetic whitlow (whitlow finger) can be spread through bodily fluids or contact with the infected skin. Moreover, this infection often affects healthcare workers and those who work with children.


Herpetic whitlow (whitlow finger) may develop anywhere on your finger, but mostly affects the tips. Its symptoms may consist of:

  • Itching or burning sensation before the blisters appear
  • Painful sores or blisters on the fingers
  • Redness and inflammation around the affected area
  • Enlarged lymph nodes (in some cases)
  • Fever


It’s often not a problem if a sore or blister develops on your finger. Some sores develop naturally as a result of friction, insect bites, or damage. However, see your doctor if you get a painful abscess on your finger and are unable to identify the source.

To diagnose herpetic whitlow (whitlow finger), your physician will first conduct a physical exam on the infected finger and ask about the symptoms that you are experiencing. They might also extract some fluid from the blisters to test for the herpes simplex virus. In some cases, they may order a blood test to check for the presence of antibodies to the virus.


Without therapy, herpetic whitlow usually disappears in 2-4 weeks. However, a person might attempt antiviral drugs to shorten the length and reduce the severity of the symptoms.

Furthermore, antiviral drugs also help stop the virus from affecting other bodily regions. The greatest outcomes are obtained when therapy is started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

Among the antivirals used to treat herpetic whitlow are:

  • valacyclovir pills
  • acyclovir pills
  • famciclovir pills
  • acyclovir ointment

A crucial component of treatment is relieving symptoms. This can include using an over-the-counter painkiller like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) to ease the discomfort.

Antibiotics could also be required if a secondary bacterial infection develops in the vicinity of a whitlow infection.

A doctor may recommend suppressive antiviral drugs, which must be taken every day, if whitlow recurs. These could lessen the likelihood of next epidemics.

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