Vibration White Finger (VWF) is the most common symptom of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). It does not become apparant immediately after the initial exposure to vibration and workers may not complain of symptoms for months or even years.
Excessive exposure to hand arm vibrations can result in various patterns of diseases casually known Vibration White Finger. This can affect nerves, joints, muscles, blood vessels or connective tissues of the hand and forearm:
- Tingling ‘whiteness’ or ‘numbness’ in the fingers (blood vessels and nerves affected): This may affect only the tips of the fingers. As the condition becomes more severe, the whole finger down to the knuckles may become white. Feeling may also be lost.
- Fingers change colour (blood vessels affected): With continued exposure the person may suffer periodic attacks in which the fingers change colour when exposed to the cold. Initially, the fingers rapidly become pale and feeling is lost. This phase is followed by an intense red flush signalling the return of blood circulation to the fingers and is usually accompanied by uncomfortable throbbing.
- Loss of manual dexterity (nerves and muscles affected): In more severe forms, attacks may occur frequently in cold weather, not only at work, but during leisure activities, such as car washing, gardening, or even watching outdoor sports and may last up to an hour causing considerable pain and loss of manual dexterity and reduced grip strength.
The symptoms of vibration white finger can include numbness or tingling of the fingers, a cold feeling in the hands and fingers and a white colouring to the fingers. This can result in a loss of dexterity and pain in the fingers, hands and arms. As a result everyday tasks such as fastening buttons, tying a shoelace, using a telephone and so on can be much more difficult.
Vibration White Finger (or Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome) affects different people in different ways depending upon a number of factors including amount of vibration exposure, temperature of the working environment and any pre-existing conditions the sufferer may have.