Whittle: a condition caused by an inflamed fingertip

Whittle is an inflammation that usually occurs in a fingertip and can be caused by a small wound, for example a pin prick in the fingertip or by biting your nails. This innocent wound can lead to a swollen, painful and inflamed fingertip. Sometimes an abscess develops with pus formation. If not treated properly, it can even lead to the loss of a finger. What exactly does whitlow mean and what can be done about it?

What whitbite exactly is

Whittle is also called ” panaritium ” and it is an inflammation in a closed space of the fingertip or toe tip. This inflammation is caused by bacteria or fungi, which cause a purulent inflammation of the bone membrane of the fingertip. This painful inflammation goes through the skin and can spread to the bone. Whittle is often a consequence of cuticle inflammation, also called paronychia , which can be caused by biting the nail or a splinter and spreads to the entire finger. Cuticle inflammation is also called cuticle inflammation. Pus accumulates under the nail, which is very painful and makes the finger red and swollen.


Whittle is usually caused by a bacterium (usually Staphylococcus Aureus ). This is often caused by a splinter, thorn or other form of minor injury. Sometimes a herpes virus is the cause and it is referred to as a herpic whitlow. In more rare cases, whitlow is caused by a fungal infection. People who often have wet hands due to their work are at risk of getting whitlow. Nail biters always have wounds along the edges of their nails, which can cause infection. In children, whitlow is often caused by thumb sucking.


Only after one day or a few days do inflammation symptoms appear on the fingertip. The finger is swollen at the tip, red, warm to the touch, throbbing and very painful. Due to the accumulation of pus, even slight movement can be very painful. As the inflammation becomes more severe, the fingertip may even become numb.
There is also a chronic form of whitlow that occurs when it lasts longer than six weeks. This usually involves a fungus ( Candida Albicans ). Here too, the skin on both sides of the nail is red, swollen and painful, and the cuticle may be lost. The nail may then have turned white in color.


If the inflammation is recognized at an early stage, treatment with antibiotics is usually sufficient. Whitlow is usually diagnosed when there is already an abscess with pus formation. A minor operation must then be performed under local anesthesia. The abscess is then relieved by making a small incision in the finger and rinsed thoroughly. Antibiotics are sometimes given as additional treatment. The abscess should be soaked in a soda bath several times a day. The inflammation may have spread to the flexor tendon sheath, a kind of tunnel through which the flexor tendons run, which can cause a tendon sheath panaritium. This is an inflammation in the tendon sheath. Ultimately, the infection can spread to the bone and even the rest of the hand, leading to serious complications such as permanent stiffness or loss of a finger.

How can you prevent whitlow?

If you have a wound on your finger, take good care of it. Even though it seems so innocent. Disinfect the wound well to prevent inflammation. Be aware that a pin prick is never free of bacteria and that you can puncture germs through the skin. It is better to let the wound bleed for a while so that the bacteria are washed out and the wound becomes clean. If inflammation occurs on the finger, soak the finger in hot soda water (37 to 38 degrees) two to three times a day, preferably for an hour. If there is no improvement after two days, see your doctor. Try to avoid walking around too much with wet hands and wear household gloves if necessary.

Source: WerbeFabrik, Pixabay

Prevention of whitlow on toes

Whittle can also develop on the toes. To prevent this from happening to the toenail, it is advisable to cut the nail straight. Because completely straight is not always possible, the idea is to cut it largely straight. Make sure that the corners are not cut round. Ensure good hygiene and keep the nail edges clean because toe cheese can easily form in this area. You can, for example, carefully clean this by running the point of a file under the edge. Avoid using the sharp point of nail scissors to avoid punctures.

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