Herpes Community
Confused and concerned about whitlow...
About This Community:

This forum is an un-mediated, patient-to-patient forum for questions and support regarding herpes issues such as: Herpes symptoms and treatments, causes, diagnosis, and herpes in men, tests, telling your spouse or partner.

Font Size:
A
A
A
Background:
Blank
Blank
Blank
Blank Blank

Confused and concerned about whitlow...

Okay, so I was diagnosed with herpetic whitlow when I was 23. The outbreaks have always come the same way and in the same place (middle finger of my left hand). About 1-2 days before the outbreak, I feel some tingling and swelling in my finger followed by it being really itchy and erupting into a blister that is quite painful. I have always been very careful about keeping it covered and have taken Acyclovir to help. It's always covered with a band aid or other dressing unless I'm washing my hand or putting ointment on. The last outbreak that I had was earlier this summer and it came and went in the same way. As the infection was clearing up, I noticed what appeared to be a small white pimple on the outside of the knuckle on my right hand. No pain or itching...it was just there and I didn't think much of it. It took longer to go away than a normal pimple would and as that one was clearing up, a second one appeared between my knuckle and where my finger joins my hand. It cleared up in about the same time. Nether instance itched, swelled, or became painful. Friday night I was sitting watching tv and I noticed my finger getting really itchy and I look down and there is a patch of read skin where the second pimple was. This area itched like a *******, I panicked and wrapped it up in a band aid. I never noticed a sore or anything like I experience when I'm having an outbreak in the primary infection site. The only thing was the itching.... I made a Dr.'s appointment, but he can't see me until Thursday, and I was wondering if it is possible that I may have infected my other finger. The only time my outbreaks on my left hand are uncovered are when I'm washing my hands and changing the dressing on it. I have been so careful over the last 5 years and this is the first time I'm had anything like this happen. I was just wondering if anyone had any answers/comments..... Also, it's only been a few days, but all that is left on my right finger is a small red spot....
Related Discussions
40 Comments Post a Comment
Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
It's doubtful this herpes too.

really not much to do other than to be seen and get a culture done. thursday is probably too late for one though.

how were you originally diagnosed as having whitlow? did you have a lesion culture done?
Blank
Avatar_m_tn
I never had a lesion culture done...the ER docter listened to what I had to say about what was happening and told me that it was whitlow and what it was and what to expect... it answered a lot of questions at the time and seemed to be really helpful. Ever since that time I have taken really great care in treating it and covering it and taking the medication. It wasn't until I started researching my recent problem until I learned about lesion tests and blood tests for the type of HSV.
Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
I'd start with a type specific herpes igg blood test just to see what your status is over all.

I'd also try to get a culture done the next time your "typical" whitlow ob happens too just to confirm.

Blank
Avatar_m_tn
I just got back from the doctor and and he said that based on what I said was going on with my finger that he was 'quite confident' that it wasn't whitlow, but due to how my finger has healed over the last 4 days or so, there wasn't a chance to get a culture done on it. He told me that due to the duration of whatever was going on, that it sounded more like an allergic reaction than anything. Although that really didn't explain the pimple like things, but all that is left from those is a small mark on the inside of my knuckle.

Another thing....I've never taken the time to ask a lot of questions or talk openly about this with a lot of people, but am I doing enough to keep myself from infecting other parts of my body and others by keeping it covered up with a band aid? Is there more that I can do? I change the band aids on a regular basis, but one thing the DR mentioned today is that there is a possibilty that when my finger sheds that it can go through the band aid, so I guess I'm just wondering if there is more I can do. I hadn't really thought about that before.

And one last thing...One thing that scares me is the thought about spreading it in the shower.  I heard that running water could possibly carry the virus, but I wasn't sure if that was true. I typically shave in the shower, and I worry about possibly infecting myself in other areas that way.

I'm sorry for all the writing, I've just never thought there was a forum like this to express my thoughts and concerns... I agree that ordering up a blood test would be a good starting point. Thank you for your help so far....

Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
yep, just keeping your finger covered when you have a recurrence is all you need to do. No need to even change the band aid frequently, just when it starts to fall off, put a fresh one on.   Traditionally soaking the finger several times a day in domeboro's solution is helpful too to speed healing and help with pain.  the skin on your finger/hand is thick and the virus only sheds from the area of lesions.  

not likely to transmit your herpes to other body parts at this point. Not sure if you can remember back to what activities you participated in around the time of your original symptoms - did you have your finger in someone's mouth or had you been with a new partner sexually?  typically you have herpes more than just on the finger whether you have symptoms elsewhere or not - depends on the activities when you contracted it.  

keep asking questions :)

grace
Blank
Avatar_m_tn
Thanks for the response again...  So, I am fine with the band aid and the virus probably will not shed through it? That's a little bit of a relief....I had been thinking about that all day.

I had read something about HSV not being able to be passed through water, so I think my shower question may have been answered by that. My only worry was that I shave my face while I shower and I typically do not use the infected hand.... I just think of the times that water may have washed over the infected area and over another part of my body that could possibly have become infected, like a nick/cut or a scrape. Or my mouth and eyes for that matter...

I don't remember a lot about the time the first OB happened...I had cut my hand pretty severely in an accident, but I don't remember any activities that could have caused it, but I'm not ruling anything out.

Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
the virus is killed easily with soap which is why the shower isn't really much of an issue.  Water flowing over the ob and then down on other body parts isn't an issue either. Really just being careful about touching your face/eyes when you have an obvious lesion is about the only concern and that too is very low. I'd also wipe with the other hand if they typically appear on your wiping hand ( no secrets here on this forum....he he he ).  

Blank
Avatar_m_tn
Well...that makes me feel a little bit better. Like I said, when the Docter made the comment about shedding through the band aid, I just looked at him with a blank look. It's good to know that I have been doing the right thing by keeping it covered.

On a note back to the initial question that I had posted about. The area on my  right hand finger that was in question has returned back to 99% of it's normal color and the only mark that you can see is where the second 'pimple' that I had written about in my first post first appeared. So all I have left for marks from the whole prcess are the remnants of what appeared to be the two pimple like bumps and nothing more.... I don't know if this gives you any more insight into whatever might have been happening, but the whole process has been nothing like what I have experienced when I have an outbreak on my left hand, except for the itching part that I experience Friday night. I possibly could have overreacted, but I just wish I would have gotten in to the Dr. sooner so it could have been cultured so I know 100% either way.

Blank
Avatar_m_tn
Grace...I had a weird question... I was wondering if smoking a tobacco product while infected with a cold sore could potentially auto innoculate someone with herpetic whitlow if the had a cut or scrape on their hands... Personnaly I can't recall ever having a cold sore, but I was just wondering if it was a possibility.....
Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
no it isn't going to happen that way. the skin on the hands/fingers is too thick to be infected that easily.
Blank
Avatar_m_tn
Okay Grace, Just wanted to start out by saying that the service you all provide here is great and the help that you all give to people is such a wonderful thing. Thank you for answering all of my questions so far, it's been much appreciated.

Okay, now I wear contacts and have always worn them when I have an OB...since the OB is on my weak hand, I've always changed them after washing my hands, and the covered blister has never been close to my eye, but I normally use a finger on my weak hand that isn't near the affected finger to hold my eye open with the skin on my cheek and I've never really thought twice about it. I'm assuming I should just go back to wearing my glasses and 'get my geek on' while I'm having an OB. Am I correct in thinking this way or am I overthinking it a little. I'm assuming my contact would have to come into contact with the sore or I would have to have the finger that my sore is on touch my eye to pass the virus into my eyes? Or would there be a chance that even after washing my hands, there could be viral particles on my fingers...

My last question  for now is involves children.... I have an amazing and understanding gal in my life who has been with me for a while and as far as I know has not contacted anything from me or my finger:) For the last year or so, she has been talking about the idea of us having kids and I'm scared to death to have a child because of my condition...I would be scared to death to pass this on to my child... are there ways to make this safer if I do happen to have a child, or am I stuck being completely paranoid about passing this on to my potential offspring?

Again...thank you for yer time and help...
Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
well luckily having your "geek" on is a trendy look nowadays :)  

really this is low risk and the way you've been handling it up until now is just fine as far as your contacts.  

definitely you both should get tested to see who has what herpeswise. that way you can better assess each others risk in general plus if you are thinking about kids in the future, you both need to know hsv2 status most definitely.  when you do have kids, cover your ob's like you do now. If you find you are having recurrences a lot while having diaper wearing children, you can always consider suppressive therapy to keep them down to a minimum. speaking of which, at the first tell tale tingle of a recurrence, start your antivirals to help keep the ob as mild as possible as well as heal fastest.  I would err on the side of caution and wear gloves if you have a whitlow recurrence and are changing diapers but other than that, nothing really special to do other than what you already properly do.  
Blank
Avatar_m_tn
Okay...I have another doctors appt. tomorrow. Those little pimples or small blisters or whatever they are are continuing to show up. It's always one at a time and generally do not cause me and discomfort. They are about the size of the tip of a pen and they don't grow any bigger than that. I think I caught this one fast enough so I may be able to get it cultured, but it doesn't look or sound like any other case of herpetic whitlow that I have read about. This makes 5 for the summer.... all while I have been taking antivirals. I guess I'm at a loss for what is happeneing to my body. Any thoughts would be great right now, maybe you've come across or heard about something like this before....
Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
probably either a bacterial infection or an allergic reaction to something.  metals as well as cleansers/hand sanitizers can cause these too.

let us know how your appointment goes.
Blank
Avatar_m_tn
*Sigh*   Well, I guess it didn't go as bad as it could have but could have been better. The doctor called it a 'papule (sp?)' and said that it is probably nothing to worry about and that I'm probably freaking myself out by reading way too much into this whole thing. He said that it did not look anything like a herpes lesion or blister and that at this point a culture would probably show nothing anyways. So, I am either wasting my time and money worrying about this or I should just accept the fact that these small pimple like things are not related to my herpetic whitlow. I'm just thinking about protecting all the people I come into contact with as I know how contagious I can be while having an outbreak. He said that the fact that there was no redness around the 'papule' showed and absence of infection. Also said that where I have been on antivirals ever since the last OB was a good sign that this wasn't herpes related as well.  Do all of these things sound about right? I'm not sure how well versed my PA is with herpes and viral infections so I thought I'd share the events of my appt. with you.
Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
sounds  like a proper assessment to me.  keep following up to find out what is the cause of your symptoms.
Blank
Avatar_m_tn
Nothing really new to add...whatever it was has faded away like the other ones. The docter did tell me he could refer me to a dermotologist next time it occurs. I'm just worried that between the wait to get in and the fact that he/she lives in the city 3 hours from where I am will allow time for the papule to heal and not get properly treated.

I did have another question about herpetic whitlow. I understand that it is quite rare and I understand how people can catch it, I just don't understand why more people don't have it. Due to the nature of asymptomatic shedding, wouldn't a guy with genital herpes not showing an OB be able to give it to his girl/boyfriend by receiving a hand job? Even if the person had no cuts on there hand, this can be a very vigorous activity so could it potentially push the viral particles through the skin? Also in that regard, couldn't a girl with genital herpes not having an OB but experiencing asymptomatic shedding spread it to a girl/boyfriend through fingering? This same question I have holds true for masterbation (masturbation) as well, even if someone was not having an OB could they potentially get herpetic whitlow from themselves if they are shedding asymptomatically  while they masterbate?themselves?

I hope you don't think I am trying to waste your time. I feel this would be an important question for anyone after finding out they had contacted the herpes virus. Hopefully you can elaborate a little on this for me. Thanks in advance.
Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
the skin on our hands is pretty thick and not easily infected with herpes.  that's why not as many folks have it as you would think should. The most common cause of whitlow is actually hsv1 - from folks having their hands in others mouths. Used to be very common in health care workers and dental workers until routine gloving became the standard.

Blank
Avatar_m_tn
That's understandable.....but I'm still guessing that there would be a risk regardless of the thickness of the skin on the hands. I mean, wouldn't the force generated by masterbation (masturbation) either by yourself or by someone else be enough to possibly infect your hands or the hands of whomever is doing the act to you? I understand that this is probably low risk, but it still would be a risk....right?
Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
incredibly low risk. the skin on our hands protects us very well or we'd have infections on them all the time. think about all the germs your hands come into contact with every day!
Blank
Avatar_m_tn
Hey Grace, so I have something new to ask you.... Thinking back to your post where you said that people who have herpetic whitlow usually have it in another place besides on their hands, I noticed after being manually stimulated by my girlfriend last night that I had redness and irritation on my foreskin around the top part of my penis. It didn't look like there were any ulcerations (that I could see) after a close inspection. This is someting that happens usually a couple of times per year but doesn't happen exactly in the same place. It's usually on different spots around my foreskin. It doesn't bother me...like itching or burning, but it got me to thinking... Is it possible that this could be herpes? I made a Dr's appt., but it's gonna be Wednesday before I can be seen. Where it has never bothered me before, I've never really thought to go to the docter for it before now. It wasn't until I started looking into things about my finger that I read different things about genital outbreaks as well, so I guess I am kind of concerned now.
Where I already know that I have whitlow, I'm a little freaked out about my gal now. What happens to me is pretty painful and awful and I wanted to know that if what is on my foreskin IS herpes, is she at risk of getting it on her hand as well? I know that outbreaks for people are all different, but IF this was an active outbreak, I would like to think that she is going to be okay. I asked her if there were any cuts or scrapes on her hand, and she said there was nothing. No torn cuticles or anything like that either.
So I guess for me...it's gonna be waiting until Wednesday to see the doctor, but would she now be at risk of getting whitlow if in fact it was an active herpes outbreak?
Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
have you and your gf had type specific herpes igg blood tests yet to know each other status?

Blank
Avatar_m_tn
Not yet...I was planning on ordering up the blood test when I go in on Wednesday for the swabbing... based on what she has told me, she has hod no history of cold sores and/or other herpes related issues. I know this doesn't rule anything out on her part by any means . I know like you have said before...the skin on the hands is thick, and I know she washed her hands really well after we were done. I was just wondering the 'ifs' risk involved assuming she's had no history of herpes related infections and if in fact what is going on with me is in fact herpes related. I know it probably sounds like I'm being paranoid, I'm just trying to get an idea of things before my appointment. Thanks...
Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
at this point you both need tested to see who has what and then go from there. assume nothing based on a presumed lack of symptoms - you both need testing.
Blank
Avatar_m_tn
Hey Grace, it's been a little while, but 9 months after my last 'real' outbreak, and low and behold, herpetic whitlow has made it's way back. My question this time has to do with the fact that it's really been cold lately and I'm fighting dry skin as I deal with my finger. Is it safe to use hand lotions during an outbreak? I found earlier this winter while I was dealing with dry skin and fighting the endless battle against the small pimple like bumbs that I was getting, that cortaid cream was really helping. I know this isn't good for a herpes blister, but is it still safe to use on my other fingers and even the surrounding area around where the band aid is on my finger? It probably sounds like a stupid question, but it's one that concerns me. Also, I would like to go back to one topic and this is the one that is still bothering me. I've talked to 5 or 6 different doctors and they were almost split in half about how effective a band aid really was to stop the virus when there is an active blister. I understand that HSV is fragile, but how long does it take to die when exposed to air? Could some of the virus be making it's way out of the band aid? I guess even after all of my initial questions, this is the one thing about all of this that still bothers me the most. It's made a little worse because I recently started a new job (the stress from the job switch could be the root of my outbreak) and I get scared anytime anyone uses a computer or phone immediately after I'm done using it. I guess the couple of docters that said a band aid wouldn't be enough to stop the virus have really gotten into my head about this. Any insight or thoughts would be welcome. Thank you.
Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
did you ever get a lesion culture to confirm that this was whitlow?

no, the virus isn't working its way out of the band aid and laying around to infect folks.
Blank
Avatar_m_tn
No... as I I had said very early on, I took the ER doc at the time's word for it because he sounded like he really knew what he was talking about and the acyclovir that he prescribed me has always worked when one popped up. I did, however, get the blood test done and it showed positive for the HSV1 antibodies. I'm assuming that this doesn't change my course of action either way. So, am I to assume your lack of response about the hand lotion/ cortaid cream question means it was probably a stupid question? I know you all have a bazillion questions and posts to read and respond too and I'm not trying to waste anyone's time, just trying to finally get answers to questions that I've had floating around in my mind. I realize some of them may sound dumb at the time, but I've never asked anything that wasn't a real concern for myself.
Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
the reason I did not answer those questions specifically is because I was waiting to hear if you had gotten a lesion culture to confirm that this is herpes or not. I wasn't ignoring them - I needed more information.
Blank
Avatar_m_tn
I do understand the utmost importance of having a lesion culture done. Based on my history, aside from the last 9 months of worrying about something that seems silly now, I have always been confident in this diagnosis and have accepted it. I was just wondering if, based on my belief that the ER docter did diagnose it correctly and with the blood test showing antibodies for HSV1 (I do understand that without the lesion culture that this is still not 100%, but based on all of my symptoms I think I'm 98% sure), if I was putting myself in a possible danger of spreading it by using certain products to keep my hands from being dry and cracking. I know having dry and cracked skin can't be safe during an outbreak, but I was jsut wondering if certain things were safer than others.
Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
yes it's fine to use hand lotion on your hands even when you have a whitlow recurrence.  Hopefully you can get a lesion culture done the next time you have symptoms to confirm that this is herpes because if it's not, better ways to treat it in general than what you've been so far.  You don't have to worry that you've left virus on the keyboard for the next person to touch and contract.

do you have antivirals on hand to start at the very first sign of a recurrence ( but not until after the lesion culture is done of course! )?
Blank
Avatar_m_tn
I've been taking them for the 9 months since the last outbreak I've had. That is why the original question that started this post about the small pimple like things I had been getting were so perplexing. From all of my reading, antiviarals were supposed to make things better, not worse, and it seemed like every 3 weeks or so, a new pimple like thing would pop up. I'm still on the dermatologists waiting list for those things. I thought, where I was on them, that the virus would show up in different ways which was possibly causing these. There was never any swelling or itching, only the small little things on my skin. What I have now is every bit as typical an outbreak as I've ever had. It is a little less servere by means of overall pain, but it itched and burned just the same...there are even 3 small vesicles that I can see when I'm changing the band aid. I had always wondered if antivirals changed the way it would appear during an outbreak, but no...I've found out they do not. Looks the same...just a little less intense. Is there a limit to how long someone can be on antiviral therapy before taking a break from it and can you ever become immune to it? I did read that you should also never use cortizone cream ON a herpes blister, I guess my main concern would have had to have been IF there were stray viral particles on my hand that the cortizone cream would turn them into like, Incredible Hulk particles with an angry vengeance on their host. I'm not terrified of what's going on with me, I'm just trying to become more informed. this has been my 'go to' place for my random questions and I appreciate your patience. I know everyone is different and has outbreaks in different ways, but once someone has established outbreaks in a certain form, do they ever change and look different, or is once you have a certain thing going on, is it pretty much what to expect from here on out? Who knows....someone, somewhere may stumble on this thread and may have their whole views changed by reading through this whole thing.... It's helped me so far....
Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
nope, no incredible hulk worries :) steroids just make your herpes more active, it doesn't cause the virus to mutate into something worrisome.

your description of symptoms is why I continue to doubt that you have whitlow or only have whitlow. sounds far more like a contact dermatitis which can result from many things including ingredients in hand soaps, contact with metal as well as many other things including latex.  hopefully you can get that dermatology consult soon.  
Blank
Avatar_m_tn
I undestand completely what you are saying. When I started this post last year, it was all about the small little blister like pimple things that I was getting and wondering if they were related to what happens on my left middle finger. As I had mentioned before, there was never any swelling and sometimes only some minor itching, but nothing like what happens on my finger. There was also never any rhyme or reason to where they would show up. The outbreaks that happen on my left finger cause typically intense pain and swelling and itch tremendously and look almost exactly like the pictures I've seen online. These ones always come back in the same 2 places, everytime. They normally happen every 6 months or so. But I got an extra 3 months this time, I'm assuming because of the daily acyclovir. Is there a limit to how long one can be on daily suppressive therapy?
Blank
1174003_tn?1308164419
No you can be on daily therapy for life.  
Blank
Avatar_m_tn
Well, as always, I appreciate all the answers that you guys give and the invaluable asset that you can be for people. My last question for now may sound silly, but it was just a passing thought. For people with herpetic whitlow, is there any chance of passing it to the mouth area via eating with your hands (like a sandwich or hamburger) or smoking, even if the blister is covered up at the time and the effected area is kept away from the face. I know the skin on the hands is thick, but the lips are not. I think with the blister covered, it would be hard to pass it on indirectly like this, but I was wondering if it was a possibility. Thank you all again.
Blank
1174003_tn?1308164419
What you are referring to is autoinculation and while it can happen it is not as much as one things.  Your antibodies will fight the infection at a new site.  No the virus isn't going to do anything if you have the area covered.  Remember skin to skin contact needs to take place.  
Blank
Avatar_m_tn
One more thing... at what point is it completely safe to stop wearing the band aid? I have always wondered about this. Is it at the point when the blister actually falls off? Is it after all the itching and burning stop and the swelling goes away? Normally after the blister falls off, the skin is generally reddish where the blister was, but looks like new skin. Is it safe to not be wearing the band aid at this point? I was just curious, because I'm probably wearing the band aid a lot longer than needed.
Blank
1174003_tn?1308164419
Have you gotten a type specific igg test done yet to know your status?  What about getting the lesion culture done?  Not trying to be annoying but it helps to tell you if what you are getting is whitlow.  

Once the skin has completely healed (redness is gone) then yes the area is fine and no longer need the bandaid.  

Getting the testing done at this point is only going to help you.
Blank
101028_tn?1348750963
once the lesions have scabbed, you can stop the band aid.
Blank
Avatar_m_tn
Hi Grace, I was wondering if you had any advice to offer me too. My partner and I discovered we had HSV-2 about 5 years ago:( in that time we have had minimal outbreaks and had a bubba. Yesterday all the points in my fingers started hurting and on a toe, first thought i had glass in my foot, and then looked down and saw some raised bumps, i then noticed these same raised bumps about 6 on my index finger and the tips of my thumbs, they dont hurt hurt but they do sting. They are itchy as hell so i got worried and started looking it up and found out about this - i never knew herpetic whitlow existed:( I have about 6 bumps on my dominant hand index finger, 2 on my thumb, 3 bumps on other index finger and thumb and on my big toe. At the same time as this all happening, breastfeeding became suddenly painful - i have been breastfeeding for a year with no problem! and i think it could be thrush which i think is a sign of my immune system being attacked... im going to go to the hospital when i get a chance- we only have public hospital here. How hard is it to pass this onto my baby? Do i just cover it up? they r not open wet blisters or anything just under the skin small lumps:(((((
Blank
Have a Herpes question?
100,000+ doctor answers
Post a Comment
To
Blank
Weight Tracker
Weight Tracker
Start Tracking Now
Herpes Community Resources
RSS Expert Activity
242532_tn?1269553979
Blank
Emotional Eating: What Your Closet ...
Jul 09 by Roger Gould, M.D.Blank
242532_tn?1269553979
Blank
This is Driving Your Emotional Eati...
Jul 02 by Roger Gould, M.D.Blank
5856747_tn?1403352282
Blank
Sleep Apnoea
Jun 28 by Andrew John Rynne, MDBlank
Top STDs Answerers
Avatar_m_tn
Blank
TiminBoston
NY
1998092_tn?1391246445
Blank
catinbarefeet
Avatar_m_tn
Blank
Fleetwood20
101028_tn?1348750963
Blank
gracefromHHP
PA
Avatar_n_tn
Blank
veryworried420
3149845_tn?1386354841
Blank
Life360
fort lauderdale, FL