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Potential herpetic whitlow?

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I was newly diagnosed with GHSV 2, almost a month ago, and I'm scared I may have spread it to other parts of my body. My first outbreak was so indescribably painful, and the onslaught of symptoms was so slow I had never considered the possibility of having contracted herpes. I also didn't know much about it and carelessly touched myself during my first outbreak to check myself in the mirror several times--though I always washed my hands afterwards. I've been on valtrex ever since my diagnosis and after about a week the sores healed and my symptoms subsided. However, about two weeks ago I began to notice small bumps developing all over my hands, on my palms, fingers and wrists. They also began to appear on my feet. About a week after these bumps appeared I noticed a rash under my breasts, underneath my armpits, and the inside of my elbows.

Where I live it is basically impossible to get an appointment with a doctor quickly. I made an appointment with a dermatologist but it's in February. I doubt urgent care would be able to help me since they didn't during my first outbreak.  The bumps are painless and have not broken open at all. At times my palms itch but that's pretty much it. It is worth mentioning that I have experienced consistent rashes since I was a kid, mostly due to soaps with fragrances and grass. My father also has psoriasis. I'm hoping that this is just a case of stress-induced eczema or some type of stress rash... I've been living in perpetual anxiety since my diagnosis both because of it and other factors that have exacerbated my mental health symptoms. I know whitlow is is extremely rare but I think my immune system is shot from having had COVID several times. 

I guess I don't really have a question because I can't do anything about this until I'm able to see a doctor. The stress of having potentially spread HSV to my hands and other parts of my body is eating me alive. I'm already struggling to accept the fact that this is life-long, and that I don't know when I'll feel brave and okay enough to have sex again because of the heavy shame I feel. I don't know what I'll do if I accidentally spread it to my hands because I didn't know any better. Having it on my genitals is hard enough, but my hands? I know it's not true but it really feels like nobody will ever want me again. I had tried coping with the diagnosis by envisioning other forms of intimacy that don't include penetration, but the thought of not being able to hold a potential lover's hand directly is destroying me beyond belief. I hope I'm just overthinking and that it's nothing because I don't know how I'll be able to cope with this. 

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Hey @afraidofheights,

I can feel how tough things have been for you since your diagnosis, and I'm really sorry to hear that. It sounds like you've been through a lot, and dealing with herpes can be a real rollercoaster of emotions.

First off, let me reassure you about something: Herpes generally doesn't spread to different parts of your own body by touch alone, especially not in the way you're describing. The virus usually stays where it initially entered. So, while those bumps on your hands and feet are definitely concerning, there's a big chance they might not be related to the herpes on your genitals at all. And yes, whitlow is a thing, but the reason it's rare is that the way it's spread tends to be the perfect storm of touching an open herpes outbreak (the liquid inside) with a place on your finger that has cut/abrasion before your body has built up immunity to the virus. Even then, herpes really doesn't prefer to be on the fingers or anywhere with non-mucous membranes. It prefers moist, warm places, which is why the vast majority of herpes outbreaks happen on the genitals and mouth. So even in the slight chance that you have whitlow, the chances of recurrences are very low. 

Now, about those bumps, you mentioned a history of rashes and sensitivity to certain things like fragranced soaps and grass. That's a valuable clue. It's possible that these new developments could be linked to some kind of skin sensitivity or stress-induced reaction, especially given the tough times you've been going through. Stress can do some pretty weird stuff to our bodies.

I also want to say that the shame and fear you're feeling are completely valid emotions, but they don't define who you are. Having herpes doesn't diminish your worth or your ability to connect with others. It's more common than you might think, and there are understanding and compassionate people out there who won't judge you for it.

Regarding intimacy, you're absolutely right. There are countless ways to connect with someone you care about that don't involve penetration. Holding hands, cuddling, and sharing deep emotional connections can be just as fulfilling. But also sex. Sex itself still carries a low risk of transmission to your partner. (See the free handouts with the ebook for all those details.) So please keep all of this in perspective and don't let the anxiety freight train run off with your mind. It's totally on the table to have an incredibly fulfilling sex life with a partner. Herpes doesn't take that away from you. 

For now, hang in there, and please try to see a healthcare professional when you can. They can provide you with the best guidance and support tailored to your specific situation. In the meantime, focus on self-care, stress management, and remember that there's a community here to lend an understanding ear. You've got the strength to navigate this journey and find happiness and connection along the way.

Note: This is for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute medical advice or diagnosis.
I'm not a medical professional, so please take this as friendly peer support. 

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  • mr_hopp changed the title to Potential herpetic whitlow?

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