Having herpes does not mean your worth is less

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I read about the herpes whitlow on this site and towards the end it asked for someone’s story or symptoms.

I’m now 33 yrs old and I was diagnosed with genital herpes at 19 yrs old. I wish we had had smartphones back then, a better way to research the virus and connect with others who also had it.

Let me express how AWFUL it was leading up to my diagnosis. Being as usually the first few breakouts can be the worst. (Which I didn’t know at the time) My symptoms started out as a urinary tract infection.

Although painful, I knew that some meds would do the trick and I’d be back to normal in a few days. Boy was I wrong. The pain didn’t cease in fact it steadily got worse. I couldn’t make it to work and peeing became a nightmare. My mom picked me up and we went to the ER. Because it such a severe urinary tract infection it was suspected I may have an STD. It’s been so long now I can’t exactly remember what they did, I think they swabbed my genitals and I believe they were testing for chlamydia. The strange part is one of the doctor’s mentioned the possibility of herpes, but obviously didn’t test me for it. Since I didn’t have chlamydia I was sent home in basically the same condition as I had came in.

Days were torture. I finally went to see a doctor. I think since the ER couldn’t or didn’t help me I didn’t think a doctor’s office visit could reap results. It was a female doctor and I sat there telling her my symptoms. My mom was in the room as well. And as the doc was writing down my symptoms I mentioned the ER doctor mentioning herpes and she stopped writing, and looked up at me with a concerned look on her face. A few minutes later, after a quick exam of my genitals, she confirmed I had herpes. A wave of shame and sadness swept over me and I remember my mom looking so sad for me. Even as I’m writing this now and recalling that day I am brought to tears.

The doctor gave me a few free samples of Zovirax. At the time I was uninsured and there wasn’t a generic med on the market for herpes. Within a day of taking the meds I was feeling so much better. Unfortunately the breakouts were frequent. For awhile I was able to get free samples until I moved down to TN. I didn’t have a car to get to the doctor and I didn’t have insurance so when I got a breakout it was HELL. The itching was maddening. I know this is going to sound gross but I want to be painfully honest to thoroughly explain my story. I would wear a thick pad and when the itching would become intolerable, and cold water and soap wasn’t sufficing, I would rub the pad vigorously on my privates which probably only exacerbated the situation, however it did bring some relief. The breakouts were so frequent my mom was kind enough to buy me a prescription of Zovirax (no refills) that cost her about $200. Eventually I was able to get to the pharmacy and buy a few at a time. It was awful. I believe $35 got me like 7 pills.

Besides the physical agony of herpes I was mentally fighting demons everyday. I felt like a leper. Whenever I was out in public I would look at people and know that I was DIFFERENT. I caught herpes from sex, although I never knew which lucky guy passed it on to me.

Promiscuity definitely aided in my illness. How would I ever be able to find someone who was willing to have sex with me again?? If I ever got pregnant would it affect my baby?

For years and years I went without meds. Eventually the breakouts became infrequent, but one time I had a full blown breakout and googled home remedies. There was some ridiculous concoction you were to rub into your genitals. It consisted of the over the counter cold sore medicine Abreeva and night time Tylenol cold medicine, in pill form. You mashed the pill into the Abreeva and rubbed it on your privates. It brought some relief although I suspect it was due more to the Abreeva than the cold medicine.

Even though the genital outbreaks were infrequent, the outbreaks that were frequent appeared on the palm of my right hand or on my right thigh. Jeans and band aids could help shield the thigh outbreaks, but the pain was awful. The palm of my right hand was the worst though. I’m right handed. Before a well formed blister appears a tingling and itching sensation would let me know trouble was on the way. Within a few hours little red bumps would appear, these would turn into the blisters but at first they’re just hard little bumps that hurt and itch. Sometimes I could actually help cease the outbreak by constantly applying rubbing alcohol to the area and of course it would over-dry the area, but again, sometimes it helped.

Through the internet, over the years, I’ve been able to do my own research on the virus. For a long time I was ashamed of myself for the stigma associated with the virus. And of course there are the jokes about herpes, and honestly, at this point in my life I can even get a good giggle out of a herpes joke. And since I’m not out announcing my situation then the jokes aren’t directed AT me. Let me assure you though, years ago when the word herpes came up, or a joke, I would get an awful, depressed feeling. Time helps heal these wounds.

Throughout the years I had close friends confide in me that they had the virus. What few friends I confided in, well they ended up telling a few other friends and I was devastated. These people are still my friends today, after long conversations they convinced me they only told another person because that person had it and felt bad. I found this to be true. The ones who found out I had it had gone through terribly sad days just like me.

I have a daughter now. She’s almost two years old. Early in my pregnancy I had a breakout on my thigh. For precautions I was put on acyclovir twice a day during pregnancy. After discussing it with my doctor I felt completely confident having a vaginal delivery. I was not in a breakout, and hadn’t had one in many months. My delivery went perfect. The baby is fine.

These days I take acyclovir once a day, unless I’m having a breakout. If anyone has done their research then they know a series of things can lead up to a breakout. Stress, heat, your period, even sexual contact when there are no symptoms, or when your immune system is fighting a cold can contribute to a breakout. I have a big exam in a few weeks, I’m a bit stressed over it and I woke up this morning with my palm hot and itchy. The pain has gotten worse over the day so I took my second acyclovir pill a few hours ago. I will take 2 a day for the next 6 days.

I would love to help counsel people who suffer with this virus. I have come to accept my body and it’s imperfections, but that’s only my journey and it took years of depression and physical pain and finally overcoming all that and realizing that I’m not broken. If only I had had some comfort when I was first diagnosed.

People need to know that even though they may have herpes, that does not mean their worth is less. They can still have relationships, and kids, and friends.

—Brandy

Photo Credit: Pinterest Pin

Tanning Bed Herpes

05c3c966b00417c6dc52d7f35b487b76Can a person contract herpes from a tanning bad? The simple answer to that questions is: NO. No, you can not contract herpes from a tanning bed.

Tanning is not enough of a contact sport. Most tanning beds are disinfected regularly with industrial-strength disinfectants that linger on dirty tanning beds and kill germs, herpes included.

Herpes cannot survive outside of the body for long periods of time. People who think they contracted herpes from a tanning bed or toilet seat do not understand herpes transmission.

Hoping my hand herpes story helps someone somewhere!

My story begins 22 years ago when I was 15. I went and got my first manicure and full set of acrylic nails for prom. I went to a friend’s sister who was almost through with cosmetology school and we did this at her home. My nails looked great and I was a happy girl. That is, until 2 weeks later when I got these horrible sores around my cuticles and down my middle finger.

Went to the pediatrician. ( I was 15 ) Dr. said I had gotten a fungal infection from a bad manicure. These sores went away and have come back off and on for 20 years. Never really thought about getting a second opinion because I had never in my life heard about hand herpes. Until last week.

I had a massive burning itching feeling in the palm of my hand and within 24 hours I had a 1 inch painful blister on the palm of my hand. I assumed I had a sticker in my hand, so I opened the sore (huge no no!) and saw nothing. I put triple antibiotic on the blister and covered it with a bandage.

Next morning I wake up to a red streak running up my arm from my palm to my elbow. Ran to the dr to be told I had a blood infection. He ordered IV antibiotics through a Picc line, and did a culture on my blister. Culture came back negative for bacteria, so he did a blood test. By the time the blood test results came back, I had 3 painful blisters on my palm. The blood test showed HSV 1. Mind you, I have never had a fever blister, cold sore or genital herpes. Herpes was a non existent word in my world.

The dr and I discussed my history in detail and decided that the fungal infection I had been diagnosed with was actually my first outbreak of Herpetic Whitlow. Imagine 22 years and I never knew! We are now trying Valtrex to help clear this up faster, taking Xanax to help me deal with the anxiety and are simply using Universal Procedure to keep me from transmitting to my husband and 2 children.

I was astonished to hear that most Herpetic Whitlow cases are not diagnosed because of lack of public awareness. Hand Herpes, who knew you could get such a thing? Now we know and you don’t have to be sexually active to be infected! Lesson learned? Always go to a reputable, licensed cosmetologist to get your nails done! Lol

—NS

Herpetic Whitlow

Among the forms of autoinoculation (self infection) already mentioned, herpetic whitlow, a herpes infection of the fingertip, deserves further explanation because it can occur in a number of ways. Generally, whitlow results when virus is spread to a finger that has a cut or abrasion. Once there, it can cause an outbreak with symptoms similar to those of oral-facial or genital herpes. Herpetic whitlow can also recur.

First, of course, the virus has to get to the finger. In people who have genital herpes, this is most likely to occur from touching your own lesions during a first episode (as was explained in Chapter 4). However, not all cases of whitlow result from genital herpes (HSV-2) infection. Some cases have been traced to adults who have an HSV-1 infection on the mouth or face and are in the habit of biting their fingernails. An active HSV-1 infection can deposit virus in saliva, and nail biting can create an opening in the skin that allows HSV a portal of entry.

In the past, herpetic whitlow afflicted significant numbers of dentists, surgeons, and other healthcare professionals whose hands were frequently in contact with patients’ saliva. In recent years, however, the widespread use of latex gloves and other precautions appears to have reduced the incidence of whitlow among healthcare workers.

Today, most whitlow is caused by HSV-2 in sexually active adults, almost always the result of hand contact with lesions during a first episode of genital herpes, prior to the development of a full immune response. Though the risk of herpetic whitlow is small in those with recurrent genital herpes, it’s a good idea to avoid touching HSV lesions. If you do make contact, it’s bet to wash your hands right away. Soap and water will kill the virus and avert the risk of whitlow. And if you have oral-facial herpes, remember that biting your nails can be risky.

Hat Tip: Managing Herpes

Do you get finger sores?

Hello. My son who is 7 years old complained about having a sore finger. The next day he had small white blisters under the skin and as the day went on they started to turn red. I had the school nurse take a look at it and she said it was a blood blister… well being a mother you know what a blood blister looks like so I had his doctor look at it who also said it was a blood blister. Still not satisfied, I took him to the ER and was told it was staph infection. ????? I still couldn’t rest until I knew exactly what was wrong with my son so finally a dermatologist took one glance at it and told me that it was definitely Herpetic Whitlow. He took a sample to confirm his diagnosis. At least now we know that it was more serious than a blood blister and we were able to take care of it with the right medication.

More Herpes Whitlow Stories

Another Herpes Whitlow Story

I am a 49 year old male. I developed herpetic whitlow of the proximal phalanges of the left middle finger. There was no complications with bacterial super infection.

I had slightly pricked the side of my middle finger with a staple and the wound seemed to be healed over. A day or two later my partner and I had sexual relations during which I used my fingers for stimulation of my partner. She had developed a primary case of HSV2 in the perineum some 18 years ago. She had no current signs and has not developed any. Her last outbreak was almost 10 years ago.

The staple wound seemed to resolve, leaving behind only a tiny area of cellulitis. About 6 days later, the wound developed a larger area of redness, and I cleaned it with soap and water, applied some antibiotic cream, and covered it with a band aid. The following day when I changed the bandaid the redness had spread distally in a narrow band.

By that evening the typical vesicles began to develop. I was aware of herpetic whitlow and recognized the signs. I applied Abreva and changed it and the bandaid three times a day. I did not apply it more often due to the fragility of the vesicles.

After two days the infection covered the area on the phalanx from knuckle to knuckle and approximately 1/3 of the diameter of the finger, but did not seem to spreading beyond this point. I continued to apply Abreva and clean the area three times per day, carefully cleaning my hands after each dressing change. I also wore a cotton glove between dressing changes.

By the fourth day, the lesion was red and taut, but no longer particularly painful. There was an area of open skin about 15mm x 4mm. Primary drainage had ceased. Applications of hydrogen peroxide did not show any significant super infection. However, the area covered by the lesion and cellulitis had not changed.

At that time I visited my primary care physician. He confirmed the diagnosis and prescribed topical acyclovir. He also pointed out that Abreva is useful only against HSV1 infections and this was almost certainly HSV2, therefore it would have been advisable to seek medical attention earlier. The area began to scab over about a week later, but remained red and taut for another week.

After about 3.5 weeks the scab had detached and the lesion was smooth, although still quite red for a radius about about double the size of the lesion proper. After 5 weeks the redness has faded considerably, though not completely. I continue to cover it with a bandaid and will probably continue to do so until the skin returns to a normal color. I intend to avoid contact with any mucous membrane or my genitalia for at least two to three weeks subsequent to complete visual resolution.

I experienced some malaise, fatigue, and nausea the day previous to emergence of the lesion, and for two days thereafter. The lesion was not extremely painful, probably due to the location on the proximal phalanx, instead of the common location at the distal phalanx, where it can irritate the pulp underlying the fingernail.

The primary difficulties of management were the regular and somewhat risky dressing changes, and the concern about when I could resume free use of the digit with near-zero risk.

I would recommend that anyone developing identifiable symptoms seek medical treatment immediately so as to acquire topical acyclovir as soon as possible.

Read more true stories here

eMail doesn’t always work

Many people write to me and the H Pals daily to ask questions, share stories, or simply to pay a compliment.

Sometimes when I respond to these e-mails they either go through OR they come back as a bounced e-mail address. When that happens I tend to want to bring those questions to the blog so people can get the help that they are looking for. Many times those people read my blog and are appreciative that I addressed their issue.

Here’s one of those e-mails that I got this week:

nice web site.. i was just re-researching herpetic whitlow as i am having a 3rd outbreak… ouch,, ~ Liz

Here’s what I wrote her back with:

Thanks for the nice compliment…I really appreciate that.

I’m sorry that you are not feeling very well.

If you have any questions be sure and post them on our message board: http://yoshi2me.com/phpbb/index.php

So Liz if you are reading…I hope you are feeling better. I also hope that you had a chance to talk to your doctor about your Herpes Whitlow and the problems that you’ve been having.

Good Luck and Best Wishes!