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Herpetic Whitlow
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Herpetic Whitlow

Hi. My husband contracted herpes 12 years ago; had two outbreaks and has not had an outbreak in 10 years. I do not have herpes. Last week, I had a hangnail and a little cut on my middle finger and, not even thinking about them, I ...this is so embarrassing..., while wanting to try something "new," put that same finger inside his rectum. The next day or two, I had a temperature of a 101.8, thinking it was the flu. Then, that day, my finger became red, swollen and really sore. I remember what had "happened" a couple days ago (although I thoroughly washed my hands afterwards), and thought that I maybe got some bacteria (which is rational to think that under the circumstances) in the hangnail or cut (although the main soreness and swelling started at the center of my cuticle. A put hydrogen peroxide on it 4 times a day and Neospirn with a bandaid. The symptoms got progressively worse over the next few days, until yesterday I literally could not even move my finger, it was SEVERELY swollen, tingling, throbbing, needle-like pain, sometimes itching, and three lymph nodes/glands in my arm were swollen and very sore. Oh and about three days ago, the side of where the main swelling was (below the nail bed) busted open, causing an opening to the infection area - but was not near the hangnail or the small cut, which was lower on my finger. Last night, it started to feel like I was losing circulation in my finger, so my husband and I went to the ER. They injected each side of the base of my finger and used a scapula to open the center of the swelling (which you could see white under the skin) to train the fluid and puss out. They didn't do any tests and I did not tell them about the anal stuff b/c I didn't think that it was relevant to disclose exactly how I suspected that bacteria got into the hangnail and/or small cut. They also didn't ask and I didn't tell (b/c I didn't think it was necessary) to disclose that my husband (but my I) have herpes. They said the infection was probably the onset of a staph infection and gave me two antibiotics and pain medication. Today, I went online to read about infections on fingers and immediately came across information about herpetic whitlow, which I never knew existed. I read about the symptoms and progression of symptoms of herpetic whitlow and saw photos of what it looks like and it looks exactly like what I have! My husband has not had a breakout in 10 years...but, he does frequently have a lot of pain or the like in his rectum, but he has always thought it was hemorrhoids - could it be that he was in fact broken out...but only in his rectum??  Any thoughts, suggestions, comments???? I am going to go to the doctor to get a test done...I guess with a swab of the injected area, but will the fact that they have already cut open and drained the area affect the results?  Will the fact that I have been on antibiotics for the past 36 hours affect the results? And...as a side question, but equally of importance to me (!!), if I do in fact have herpetic whitlow how does my husband have break out inside his rectum??? Seriously, I need answers! His initial break out (when he was 16), as well as the only two breakouts he had after that (when he was 17 and 18) was on his penis. Can herpes spread to his rectum and be confined to only the rectum in subsequent breakouts?? Do you think he had anal sex with a guy???? Please help me with these questions (testing herpetic whitlow and the one just listed)!!! Thank you sooooooo much in advance!!!!!!!!!!!  
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3 Comments Post a Comment
1174003 tn?1308164419
There is no reason first of all to be embrassed to tell a doctor anything.  They have heard it all and if they haven't you likely aren't to shock them.  Sexual activities such as the one you listed are while done in private may point to further testing that maybe needed.  

It is entirely possible that your injury and the act that you did with your husband could have resulted in a transmission known as herpetic whitlow.  But so could a few other things too.  Such as staph infection and a few other things.  

Chances are the swab test will be negative because to much time has passed since the infection.  The antibotics won't kill a virus nor prevent you from testing accurately.  Chances are the doctors didn't see herpetic whitlow and thus felt it was something else.  

The virus (I am guessing he has HSV-1 based on the frequency of outbreaks) does live in the nerves that supply the "Boxer shorts" region.  This means that the virus can reoccur in any location and not that your husband had anal sex with another male.  Just how the virus works.  The area your finger was located is a known location for what we call asymptonmatic shedding.

There is a period of time where the virus is active on the skin but not with symptoms.  We call this shedding.  Even though he hasn't had an outbreak he can still shedd the virus during times where there are no outbreaks.  If he has gential (genital) HSV-1 chances are it is 3-5% of days a year.  No telling if he is though having an outbreak in his rectum or if it is a hemirroid.  

My suggestion is if you get a repeat of symptoms be seen by your provider within 24-48 hours for a swab test.  Until then you can wait 12-14 weeks for a blood test to find out your herpes status.  If all of your previous tests were negative then chances are your finger issue was withlow but there is no 100% way to know for sure if that was the location of infection or not.
101028 tn?1419606604
odds are your husband has never been properly tested for herpes. at some point he should pursue a type specific herpes igg blood test to see what his status is.

when was the last time you were tested for herpes yourself with a type specific herpes igg blood test.

Give your regular provider a call in the morning and discuss this.  No need to go into details about what you were doing, just let him know that you were to the ER with this and are concerned about herpes whitlow and ask if they think it's worthwhile testing for it or not.  Even if you don't ever treat herpes it's ok  and they are treating your symptoms to cover bacterial skin infections.  

your husband's genital herpes is active from the area of obvious lesions as well as from the entire anogenital area. In between obvious symptoms, it's also active periodically from the entire anogenital area.  His anal symptoms might be herpes but even if they aren't, he's still shedding the virus from there on occassion.  

Avatar f tn
Yes, it is herpetic whitlow! How do I know? Because I am a nurse and I too have herpetic whitlow and These are all the symptoms and pains! Mine is on the sides and inside of my thumb and I also get a really really red swollen lymph node and vessels on the top of my fore arm right about my wrist! Very painful..and when I go out in public people always ask me "DID YOU BURN YOUR ARM?" because it is extremely red and it does not go away (in my arm) until the blisters subside on my thumb..There is medication you can ask for...

• Acyclovir pills
• Valacyclovir pills
• Famciclovir pills
• Topical acyclovir ointment
These medications are usually taken for 7–14 days.

Good luck! Defiantly get a blood test.. and I am not sure about your husband having sex with a man..That might be something you will have to ask him. However, herpes virus does not go away it is in your blood FOREVER! you can only TRY to prevent outbreaks. Outbreaks come with stress and menstrual cycle (mine does anyway).

Check this website out this is how I diagnosed myself!
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