Whitlow is a deep and painful infection at the end of your finger. The infection is caused by bacteria which has entered your skin through a skin injury. In most cases, this is the staphylococcus bacteria. This is sometimes also referred to as bacterial whitlow. The whitlow is referred to as chronic if it lasts longer than six weeks. Chronic whitlow is usually caused by a fungal infection. The symptoms are the same as with bacterial whitlow.
Whitlow usually starts with a cuticle infection, but it can quickly spread to other parts of your fingers and hand. That’s why it’s important you take the infection seriously. It can even become so severe that your bones and tendons are damaged. However, it can be treated very effectively if you catch it on time.
You can recognise whitlow by the following symptoms:
- The tip of your fingertip is very swollen, red and glowing.
- Your finger is throbbing and you feel pressure in your finger.
- In some cases, pus will run out of your finger. A pocket of pus may also form in your nail bed and/or cuticle.
- The infection can quickly spread to other parts of your fingers or hand.
With whitlow it’s important that:
- You immediately contact your GP.
- You continue to take your course of antibiotics if you’ve been prescribed them.
- You follow the advice of your surgeon if you’ve had minor surgery.
- You give your finger and hand sufficient rest.
You should contact your GP if:
- You have a cuticle infection which is continuing to spread.
- You suspect you have whitlow. Make sure you don’t wait too long and always air on the side of caution.
Your GP will then refer you to a plastic surgeon in the hospital. He or she will prescribe antibiotics and/or treat the infection during surgery. It’s impossible to say exactly how long it will take for the infection to heal. This will depend on the severity of the infection and your resistance.