We look at the causes, symptoms and treatment options for hand-arm vibration syndrome.
By Dr Ken Waters
A secondary form of Raynaud’s disease, vibration white finger is most often triggered by overuse of vibrating hand-held machinery such as chainsaws or power hammers.
But what exactly is this industry injury, what are the symptoms and can it be prevented? Dr Ken Waters from Bupa UK gives us the lowdown on vibration white finger:
What is vibration white finger?
Vibration white finger, also known as hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) or dead finger is a condition that can present as a form of Raynaud’s Disease, affecting your fingers’ blood vessels and nerves.
It causes changes to your fingers’ blood circulation and colour; when the feeling comes back, your fingers may turn red and feel painful. If HAVS affects your nerves, your fingers might also tingle, or feel numb.
What causes vibration white finger?
Regular exposure to vibrating tools can cause damage to your hand’s nerves, joints and blood vessels, making it more difficult for blood to pump to your fingertips.
Who’s at risk of vibration white finger?
The condition is commonly associated with people who work in manual jobs that involve frequent use of vibrating hand tools, especially when they’re used for more than fifteen minutes a day, eg sanders, power hammers or chainsaws.
Symptoms of vibration white finger
Early signs to look out for include changes to any of your fingers:
Sensitivity includes developing new pain, or struggling to feel anything at all.
If you are struggling to pick things up and hold things generally for more than usual, this can become permanent beyond the early stages of vibration white finger.
Look out for white fingertips, especially when it’s cold.
Treatments for vibration white finger
Your GP may be able to prescribe nifedipine: a medicine that helps to improve blood circulation. You may be told to take this every day, or as a preventative measure, eg when it’s cold outside.
w to prevent vibration white finger
Proper use and maintenance of the tools is essential to protect you from vibration white finger. If you work in an industry where the use of vibrating tools can’t be avoided, your employer can safeguard you in several ways, such as the following:
✔️ Ensuring the working environment and tools are kept warm.
✔️ Providing tools with low-vibration settings.
✔️ Promoting wearing anti-vibration gloves.
✔️ Planning work schedules to avoid prolonged use of vibrating tools.
If your GP diagnoses you with vibration white finger, tell your manager as soon as you can – avoiding vibrating tools at an early stage can lead to a full recovery.