Can the blisters be Herpes Whitlow?

Dear Dr. Tom:

I have had herpes now for about three years. In the last six months I have had blisters on my hands. I have very sensitive skin and some lotions bother me. I am a hairdresser/nail tech so I went to the doctor about my hands and she said it was herpes. She had only been a doctor for about one year and even went into the next room to ask her husband, who didn’t even look at it. I decided to get another opinion, that doctor said it wasn’t herpes and gave me triamcinolone acetonide ointment. It clears it up but within a few days its back again. Do you think it is herpes? I am afraid of giving it to the people I work on but I was told that it’s not herpes.

Please help me. What do I do? Do many people get it on there hands? I need your advice. Thanks.

Dr. Tom’s Response:

Dear Thanks:

Your description resembles a condition known as herpetic whitlow, more common to nurses and dental practice workers but recognized as an occupational hazard. Lesions occur primarily on the hands, and the pain has been responsible for many lost work days in those so infected. The infection occurs less frequently now that gloving is a standard practice in all health care. If the affliction is not herpes as determined by the other doctor, the wise decision would be to determine exactly what the condition is rather than treating it empirically and having it recur. Also, you might consider working in latex gloves as is the common health care procedure.


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