Vibration white finger (VWF) is a circulatory disorder affecting the nerves, blood vessels, muscles and other structures in the arm. This is brought about by hand-held vibrating machinery. Long and frequent exposure to the intense vibrations cause injury to the structures in the hand, similar to that of Raynaud’s Disease. Frequencies between 5 to 150 Hz pose the greatest risk to workers.
Vibrating White Finger is common among workers who man machineries such as jackhammers, chain saws and power drills without proper equipment and knowledge. Employers must also ensure that workers are not exposed to such machineries for long periods of time to prevent the development of white finger.
Vibrating White Finger greatly affects the anatomy as well the functions of the hand. Progressive damage in the hand eventually renders the arms useless. In order to diagnose VWF, the following manifestations must be present:
- Numbness or paresthesia – patients may feel tingling sensation or occasional numbness in the affected extremity. This is
- Finger light bulbs – at first, the tips of the fingers may turn pale or white. This is due to the worsening blood circulation in the body, especially in cold seasons. After several periods of time, the finger will turn blue and then red, which signifies the return of circulation. This may be accompanied by uncomfortable tingling.
- Loss of function – patients will still be able to use their hand, but manual dexterity will be significantly affected. When muscles are already affected, this may cause pain and even strength. Patients may not be able to grip things well. This may occur not just at work but even when enjoying leisure activities, especially during cold weather.
The presence of the above mentioned symptoms and history of handling vibrating machineries are enough proof to arrive at a diagnosis of VWF. Also, checking grip strength, fine motor and the hand’s response to cold temperature must be frequently checked.
If you are currently working in said industries and are frequently handling those violently vibrating instruments, it is time to take preventive measures. Since this is connected to blood flow, it is a must that you promote good circulation by keeping your hands warm, especially at work. Wearing gloves and other protective gear will do a lot of help. Tobacco smoking should also be crossed out from your lifestyle as this will hasten the constriction of small blood vessels.
Aside from using the protective gears, proper use of the equipment will also help prevent VWF from occurring. First, do not tightly grip the machine. If you can do away with loosely holding on to the equipment, do so. Then take frequent small breaks when handling that jackhammer. There is a limit as to how long a person should handle vibrating machinery. The strength of vibrations or the frequency as well as the duration of work must be considered. Every 10 minute or so, take a break, exercise your hand or go for a small walk. This helps prevent vibrations from damaging the structures in your hand.