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Herpes on Hands

By eHealthIQ
Reviewed: May 22, 2013


Herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that affects some men and women. The infection is characterized by genital sores, pain and itching. Some people develop herpes on the palm of hand, but this condition is rare.According to the Mayo Clinic, the herpes simplex virus (HSV) is the cause of genital herpes. The virus spreads primarily through sexual contact. Herpes may lie dormant after the initial infection, but it can reactivate at any time.The risk of getting herpes on hands exists for anyone who is infected with the herpes virus. Generally, the virus can spread from one person to another through skin contact. Autoinoculation or self-infection is also possible.

Overview and Facts

While skin-to-skin contact can cause herpes on palm of hand, the infection typically occurs where there are mucous membranes. The mouth and genitals are well-known examples. Exposing the hand to either of these areas rarely causes herpes, since the hand does not have a mucous membrane.

Small cuts, torn cuticles and other skin damage gives the herpes virus entrance into the hand or fingers. Called herpetic whitlow, or sometimes simply whitlow, herpes on hands is a painful and unsightly condition. If an infected hand rubs an eye, the herpes transmission can cause blindness.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of herpes are often unnoticed in mild cases of infection. In moderate cases, pain and itching are usually the first signs of infection. Shortly afterward, usually within a few days, small bumps or blisters may appear.

As herpes lesions rupture, they may ooze, bleed and cause ulcers. Eventually, scabs form over the sores and the ulcers heal. In most people, herpes blisters develop on the genitals, buttocks or thighs. For those with herpes on the palm of hand, the lesions form on the hands, fingers, thumbs or nail cuticles. Occasionally, herpes affects the feet and toes.

Causes and Diagnosis

Two types of herpes can cause genital herpes or herpes on hands. HSV-1 causes fever blisters or cold sores around the mouth. HSV-2 is the typical cause of genital herpes. This second type is extremely contagious.

Doctors use a number of tests to diagnose a herpes simplex infection. In addition to a physical examination, they can usually diagnose herpes through a blood test, DNA test or viral culture.

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Tests and Treatments

Laboratory tests analyze blood, tissue or spinal fluid samples to confirm a herpes diagnosis. Although there is no cure for herpes, antiviral medications can treat the symptoms. Acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir are the most common antiviral medications for herpes.

Prescription medications lessen the severity of herpes outbreaks and help skin lesions heal better. They also minimize the risk of herpes transmission to other people or other parts of the body. Severe complications from herpes may require hospitalization.

Tips and Home Remedies

A herpes diagnosis can be distressing whether it involves genital infections or herpes on palm of hand. Many people experience a range of emotions, from shock and anger to guilt and shame. Some feel resentful of their partners, while others fear rejection by their partners.

There are many ways to deal with these normal but distressing feelings. Education and communication are healthy ways to cope. Support groups are beneficial for some people.

Prevention is the key to avoid a herpes simplex infection. Monogamy and latex condoms are two ways to prevent genital herpes. Awareness and clean hygiene, such as frequent hand washing, are important to prevent herpes on hands. Gloves, masks and other protective clothing are essential for dentists and other healthcare professionals.



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