Hand Disease Information
Hand infection when it occurs can be very serious. Even when the infection has been treated, it can leave residual scars, loss of function, decreased strength, loss of tissue and abnormal sensation. It is recommended that early and aggressive hand infection treatment should be the goal for all patients. The treatment for all extremity infections is basically the same – it involves use of antibiotics, rest, elevation and sometimes surgery. In most cases of infection of the hand, if there is no improvement within 24-48 hours surgery must always be an option.
There are many types of extremity infections. The simplest is a paronychia which is an infection of the cuticle area at the side of the finger nail. The hand infection symptoms following paronychia include moderate pain, redness, swelling and pus. The best treatment is to drain the pus and soak the finger in warm water several times a day. Paronychia tend to be more common in people whose hands are always wet.
A felon is more serious and a painful infection of the pulp space on the finger tip. It is best treated by a small incision and draining pus. If treatment is delayed, this infection can damage the bone and soft tissues.
A herpetic whitlow is a viral infection of the fingers caused by the herpes virus. It is most common in health care professionals whose hands are exposed to saliva and other body fluids of patients carrying a variety of viral infections. The condition presents with painful blisters and sometimes numbness along the finger. The condition generally resolves on its own in a few weeks.
Some infections of the hand can affect the joint and can be very destructive. In just a few days, the joint can be destroyed if treatment is delayed. Hand infection symptoms following a joint infection include a swollen finger, pain inability to move the finger, redness, fever or severe pain. The treatment is intravenous antibiotics for many weeks.
Sometimes deep space infections of the hand can occur in laborers who work with drills and sharp instruments. The puncture wounds can cause devastating infections of deep spaces in the hand and require urgent surgical drainage and antibiotics to prevent spread.
In rare cases the sheath which carries the tendon can become infected after a puncture wound. This can cause finger pain, swelling and redness. If not treated in time the tendon can rupture. Tendon sheath infections are quiet common in diabetics and need urgent drainage and antibiotics.
Bites of the hand are the most common type of injury encountered in emergency rooms; the bites may be from humans or animals. In all cases a variety of bacteria get inside the hand and treatment requires antibiotics. Most hand bites can be devastating if not treated in time. The infection can rapidly spread to rest of the hand and lead to destruction of the tendon. Sometimes, surgery is needed to clean and remove dead tissue.
Other rare causes of infections include the tuberculosis bacteria which may be acquired from fish spines. Hand infection treatment is effective when started early but any delay can lead to loss of hand/finger function.
When a hand infection is suspected, an early visit to a physician is highly recommended.