Herpes simplex caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV) can affect any body area including face, mouth, eyes, nose, hands, brain and genitals and the infection is categorized accordingly. Herpes on arm is a condition that results from herpetic whitlow. Among two most common variants of herpes virus, HSV-1 is responsible for causing herpes on arm. This infection usually results from the herpes infection on other body parts. Herpes whitlow is characterized by red, painful blisters on the arms and fingers.
Causes of Herpes on Arm
Herpes infection of mouth and genitals is most commonly found. But, herpes on arm, back or legs is less frequent. It happens in the immunocompromised people due to spread of virus from other affected body parts, as this infection is highly contagious. If the person has oral herpes, the virus may spread due to touching the blisters and not maintaining the hygienic conditions. The virus enters the body and remains in an inactive form. When the immune system weakens due to illness, stress or poor nutrition, the virus becomes active and causes primary outbreaks. It results in itchy, painful rash on the arm. Health care professionals are at a greater risk of getting this infection, as they are constantly exposed to the lesions and body fluids of an infected person.
Herpetic whitlow may arise following the chickenpox infection caused by varicella zoster virus (VZV). This virus may remain in the body in the dormant form and may cause herpes infection, when it activates.
Symptoms of Herpes on Arm
The primary outbreak is seen within 2-20 days after exposure to the virus. The onset of symptoms can be noticed by tingling or burning sensation, followed by redness at the affected area. Then there is appearance of clustered blisters with red base. This may be preceded or accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, malaise and muscle pain. Patient may notice swollen lymph nodes in the elbow or in the underarm area. Usually, the blisters scab within 3 weeks, leaving no scars in most cases. Since the virus remains in the latent form, there are chances of recurrent infection, which is triggered by certain factors like trauma to affected area, emotional or physical stress, sun exposure and hormonal changes. However, recurrent infection causes milder symptoms and last for short period.
Treatment for Herpes on Arm
You should be extremely careful about the treatment, as soon as you notice the symptoms, so that you can control the outbreaks and restrict recurrence. The diagnosis is done on the basis of physical examination of blisters and laboratory investigations like viral culture. The doctor prescribes antiviral medications like acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir. You may apply anesthetic cream to reduce pain.
In addition to medications, you need to follow some simple home remedies and self-care measures. Keep the affected area clean and dry. You may apply baking soda or corn starch paste on the lesions to keep them dry. Avoid touching and scratching the blisters. Use of cold tea bags is another effective home remedy. You may also apply cold compresses or ice packs on the affected area to soothe pain and discomfort.
You should maintain extremely hygienic condition in order to prevent the spread of virus. Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Avoid sharing objects and things used by the infected person. The health care professionals should not forget to wear protective clothing such as gowns, masks, gloves and eye shields, when handling the patients.