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Common Causes Of Bumps & White Spots On Penis & Foreskin

This situation may be familiar to many men: while taking a shower one day, you happen to notice some white spots on your foreskin. You do a double take as you lean down to inspect your manhood. What could it be? How long have they been there? The questions are aplenty as you instinctively reach for your smartphone to begin a Google search.

There are many conditions that can cause white spots to develop on the penis and foreskin. Some men may be born with them, while others may develop them as a result of poor hygiene practices or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is important to know what the white spots are due to, as not all conditions require treatment. Listed below are some common causes of white spots on the foreskin and penis.


Pearly Penile Papules

Pearly penile papules (PPP) are small, dome-shaped or projection-like bumps that are located just below the head of the penis, usually arranged in a neat row. They can be white, flesh-coloured, yellow or translucent in colour. They do not cause any pain or itch. PPP is considered as a normal variant of the male penile anatomy, and are harmless bumps. It is not cancerous and there is no cancer risk. It is not a sexually transmitted infection and is not contagious. It is common and can occur in up to 38% of young men up to age 25.

PPP can be left alone and does not require treatment. However, for men who find them unsightly, they can be removed. Treatment options include laser therapy, cryotherapy and electrosurgery. 

READ: What are Pearly Penile Papules?


Fordyce Spots

Also known as Fordyce glands, these are harmless, small white or yellow bumps that are found on the foreskin. They are basically enlarged sebaceous glands, and can occur alone or in clusters. They do not cause any pain or itch. Fordyce spots can also commonly occur on the edges of your lips or on the inside of your cheeks.

Just like PPP, Fordyce spots are not cancerous and infectious, and also does not require treatment. Similarly, they can be removed if men find them unsightly. Treatment options include topical retinoid cream, oral isotretinoin, laser therapy and electrosurgery. 


Tyson’s Glands

Also known as preputial glands, Tyson’s glands are modified sebaceous glands that are found on the inner surface of the foreskin. They occur in pairs and are located on either side of the frenulum. These glands are also present on the hood of the clitoris in females. Tyson’s glands are normal structures and do not require treatment.  


Skin Tags

Skin tags are small, soft, flesh-coloured growths on the skin. They usually have a stalk and hang off the skin, and can vary in size from a few millimetres up to several centimetres. They tend not to grow on the penis itself, but rather, around the groin and scrotum. They often grow in areas where the skin folds and rubs against itself, and as such they are often also found on the neck, armpits, eyelids and under the breast. They affect men and women equally. Obesity, diabetes and pregnancy can increase the chances of occurrence.

Skin tags are benign tumours of the skin and do not require treatment. Occasionally, they may fall off on their own. People often wish to get them removed for aesthetic reasons, or if the skin tags are large and get in the way. Treatment options include cryosurgery, electrosurgery, ligation and excision.  

READ: Skin


Balanitis

Balanitis is inflammation of the foreskin and head of the penis. Spots can appear on the penile head or foreskin, and can be white or reddish. Other symptoms include redness, pain, itching, discharge, swelling and difficulty with retraction of the foreskin, and sometimes pain when passing urine. 

Balanitis can affect as many as 1 in 10 males, and can occur at any age. It is more likely to occur in uncircumcised men. The most common cause of Balanitis is a bacteria or fungal infection, or a combination of both. This can result from inadequate personal hygiene and/or phimosis (tight foreskin). There are non-infectious causes for balanitis as well. Risk factors for recurrent balanitis include diabetes, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. 

To investigate balanitis, your doctor may perform swab tests to identify the responsible organism. Treatment involves topical and/or oral anti-fungal and antibiotics. The long term solution to balanitis is a circumcision.

READ: Causes, symptoms and treatment of Balanitis.

Pimples

Pimples develop as a result of the pores of our skin being blocked by dead skin cells, sebum and other debris. The sebaceous gland continues to produce sebum and build up under the blockage, allowing bacteria to grow in the area, resulting in inflammation, infection and pain. They can occur anywhere on the body, including the penis.

Pimples can be left alone and usually resolve on their own without treatment. It is important to resist the urge to pop the pimples as this may lead to superimposed infection, scarring and hyperpigmentation. However, they may end up self erupting and discharge small amounts of pus. Treatments for pimples include topical over-the-counter creams such as benzoyl peroxide, antibiotic creams and, if more severe, oral antibiotics.

READ: Skin


Folliculitis

Folliculitis is an inflammation or infection of the hair follicles. It can occur anywhere on the body, including the penis, where it is frequently seen at the shaft or base of the penis, or the pubic area. Folliculitis tends to result from shaving, waxing or chafing of the hair follicles. The damage to the hair follicles allows bacteria to enter. Sometimes, ingrown hairs can also occur from hair removal treatments, eventually leading to folliculitis as well. Folliculitis can be painful and/or itchy. Treatment options include topical and/or oral antibiotics. 

READ: Common causes of penile itching and pubic itching


Genital Warts

Genital warts are caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and can be spread via vaginal, oral or anal sex. They appear as flesh-coloured growths over the genitals that can cluster and resemble a cauliflower. Most of the time they do not have any symptoms but can sometimes itch. Bleeding can also occur during sexual intercourse. 

READ: Causes, symptoms and treatment for Genital Warts
READ: How to get rid of Genital Warts

Left alone, the warts can remain the same or increase in size and number. They will disappear once the body has shed the virus completely, typically over a course of 1 to 2 years. Treatment options include topical medications such as imiquimod, cryotherapy and electrosurgery. Vaccines are available to help prevent HPV infection, consider getting a HPV vaccination. 

READ: HPV Vaccination For Men
READ: Rapid HPV Testing

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) and is a sexually transmitted infection. Itching of the penis is usually the first symptom, and can occur in other areas such as the scrotum, groin, buttocks and anus. Shortly after, tiny clusters of painful blisters develop, which can then rupture and form shallow ulcers with crusts. Other symptoms include painful urination, enlarged groin lymph nodes, fever and body aches. The virus can lie dormant in the body for years without causing any symptoms, therefore some people may not even be aware that they are infected. 

Genital herpes can be diagnosed via swab testing of the lesions. When there are no symptoms, no treatment is required. Flares can be treated with oral and topical antiviral medications. There is unfortunately no cure for genital herpes, as the virus will permanently remain in the body.

READ: Rapid Herpes Testing

Molluscum Contagiosum

This is a benign infection of the skin caused by the Molluscum Contagiosum virus, resulting in painless, small, shiny pearl-shaped lesions. They can happen anywhere on the body as a result of physical contact, but when they occur on the genital area, it is usually as a result of sexual contact. The virus is thus spread via sexual contact, or even to another part of the person’s own body, from scratching the lesions and touching another part of the body. They can appear alone, or in clusters. They usually do not cause any symptoms, but can sometimes itch. 

Left alone, the lesions will eventually disappear once the body has shed the virus completely, typically over a course of several months to a year. Treatment options include topical medications such as salicylic acid, cryotherapy, laser therapy and curettage.

READ: Everything you need to know about Molluscum Contagiosum

In conclusion, do not panic if you notice white spots on your penis, as not all white spots require treatment.  Speak to your doctor for advice on white spots or bumps and request for an examination. 

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Common Causes of Penile Itching and Pubic Itching

A myriad of conditions can cause a man to have penile itching or pubic itching. The excruciating urge to scratch and relieve that itch at such an inconvenient part of the body can be a major source of embarrassment to some. When severe, it can result in extreme discomfort in the day, and disrupt one’s sleep at night.

 

Here are some of the causes of Penile Itching and Pubic Itching:

 

6 Common Causes of Penile Itch:

 

1. Balanitis

Balanitis is a common infection of the foreskin and head of the penis. It is caused by bacteria or fungus, or a combination of both.

Symptoms include redness, swelling, discomfort, penile itching, and sometimes pain when passing urine.
(See: Penile Infection, Infection of the Penis)

When fungal infection (candidiasis) is present, a whitish cottage cheese-like discharge can be found under the foreskin. Balanitis is often hygiene related, but can also be caused by STDs. It is more likely to occur in uncircumcised males.  Watch: What are the causes of Foreskin Infection (Balanitis)

2. Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). Itching of the penis (penile itching) is usually the first symptom and can occur in other areas such as the scrotum, groin, buttocks and anus.

Shortly after, tiny clusters of fluid-filled blisters or ulcers can develop and these are usually painful. Other symptoms include painful urination, enlarged groin lymph nodes, fever and body aches. The virus can lie dormant in the body for years without causing any symptoms, therefore some people may not even be aware that they are infected.

Read: Genital Blister, Genital Ulcers & Genital Warts & Causes of Oral Herpes (Cold Sore)

 

3. Genital Warts

Genital warts are caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. They appear as flesh-coloured growths that can cluster and resemble a cauliflower. Most of the time they do not have any symptoms but can sometimes itch. Bleeding can also occur during sexual intercourse.

Read: Genital Warts Treatment

 

4. Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a skin reaction to contact with an irritant. This can happen anywhere on the body, including the penis. When this happens, it is usually caused by latex condom usage. The skin of the penis can turn red and itchy.

Sometimes the skin can break causing serious discharge, and bacterial infection can occur. Mild cases can be treated with a corticosteroid cream. Non-latex condoms can be used if you have a latex allergy.

 

5. Urethritis

One of the causes of penile itching is Urethritis. Urethritis refers to inflammation of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. This condition most often causes pain or itching in the penis, which worsens when passing urine.

Other symptoms include urethral discharge, urinary frequency or urgency, difficulty urinating, and blood in the semen. Urethritis is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection and can be sexually transmitted. See other STD Symptoms 

 

6. Psoriasis

Psoriasis on elbows.

Genital psoriasis often occurs alongside psoriasis of the skin. Skin cells develop at an extremely fast rate, resulting in the accumulation of skin cells on the skin surface, building up into itchy, red plaques of scaly skin.

5 Common Causes of Pubic Itch

 

1. Jock Itch

Also known as tinea cruris, jock itch is a fungal infection of the skin in the genital area, groin and buttocks. The rash is usually itchy, red, scaly and ring-shaped. It tends to occur in people who sweat a lot and/or are overweight.

 

2. Pubic Lice

More commonly known as crabs, these are tiny parasitic insects that attach to the hair and skin in the pubic region. Pubic lice can be easily spread via sexual contact or other forms of close contact, and can spread to other body areas with coarse hair such as beards, armpits and chest hair. It is also possible for pubic lice to spread by using an infected person’s clothes, towels, or bed.

 

3. Folliculitis

This is a condition in which hair follicles become inflamed and is usually caused by bacterial or fungal infection, or inflammation from ingrown hair. Initially, the affected hair follicles may have small red bumps or white-headed pimples, but can swell and become painful and subsequently develop into crusty sores.

 

4. Contact Dermatitis

As mentioned earlier, this condition can also occur in the pubic area.

 

5. Molluscum Contagiosum (mo-LUS-kum kun-tay-jee-OH-sum)

This is a benign viral infection of the skin and is caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus, resulting in painless, small, shiny pearl-shaped lesions. They can happen anywhere on the body as a result of contact, but when they occur in the genital area, it is usually as a result of sexual contact. They can appear alone or in clusters. They usually do not cause any symptoms, but can sometimes itch.

If you need to speak to our doctors, please visit our men’s clinics.  Alternatively, you can email us hello@dtapclinic.com or call us for an appointment.
Take Care.


Other Read:

 

Genital Blisters, Genital Warts and Genital Ulcers – Causes & Treatments

Genital blisters, genital warts, genital ulcers – more common than you think but invariably exceedingly distressing for the person suffering from them. Today we talk a little about the various causes for the above genital skin conditions.
Genital lumps, bumps and sores can be an alarming phenomenon for anyone. One day you notice a tiny little bump, or perhaps several bumps.
Now you’re not sure when they appeared – was your skin normal last week, or did you just never notice the bumps for a good duration? Or perhaps you notice what you thought was a little pimple or an ingrown hair follicle which happens from time to time because you shave. But now it’s burst, leaving a painful raw ulcer.

What are the Causes of Genital Blisters, Genital Warts and Genital Ulcers?

1) What are the Causes of Genital Blisters?

Genital blisters are small, fluid-filled bumps and can occur anywhere over the genital region.

a) Genital Herpes

One of the classic causes of genital blisters is genital Herpes, caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus.
Here’s a video about Herpes

Genital herpes has Several Stages:
Stage 1: Prodrome – the skin appears normal but you may feel an unusual sensation like a tingling or itching. This indicates that the virus is active and heralds an impending outbreak
Stage 2: Redness – you may notice some nonspecific red spots which may be uncomfortable or slightly painful.
Stage 3: Blisters – this is usually when people realise something is not right, Initially, these may resemble tiny pimples. They then grow in size and become fluid-filled and painful.
Stage 4: Ulcers – the blisters burst, leaving shallow, painful ulcers
Stage 5: Scabbing or crusting – a scab or crust forms over the ulcer, which eventually heals
Also, check out What is Oral Herpes & Cold Sore

b) Balanitis

In males, balanitis may sometimes present with tiny blisters. The term “balanitis” is a descriptive term which means inflammation of the head of the penis and foreskin. This usually manifests as skin redness, with some tiny blisters or whitish bumps, as well as possible itching/pain or discomfort.
There can be multiple causes of balanitis. The skin on the penis is no different from skin elsewhere on your body and redness, discomfort and irritation can be caused by many factors:

  • Infections such as fungal skin infections
  • Skin irritation caused by external factors like soaps (irritant or contact dermatitis)
  • Mechanical trauma in the form of excessive friction e.g. masturbation or sexual intercourse with insufficient lubrication
  • Poor hygiene
  • Sensitive skin e.g. in people prone to eczema or dry skin

Depending on the possible underlying trigger or cause, various topical creams may be useful. In some cases, skin swab tests or urine tests may be useful in checking for underlying infections.
Read more about What is a Penile Infection?

2) What are the Causes of Genital Warts?

a) Human Papilloma Virus

This is THE cause of genital warts. Genital warts are skin coloured, fleshy bumps which may occur singly or in clusters around the genital and anal region. They can range from tiny firm bumps to larger, irregular shaped bumps which are classically described as “cauliflower-like” in appearance.
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted viral infection. There are many strains of HPV and they are transmitted through sexual contact. Some strains are responsible for genital warts, while other “high risk” strains can lead to an increased risk of cancers such as cervical, oral and anal cancers.
If you have warts, it effectively means you have been infected by at least one strain of HPV. If you are female and you are not already doing your regular PAP smear for cervical cancer, you should do a PAP smear with high risk HPV testing because an individual may have not just one but several strains of HPV. You can read more about PAP smears and cervical cancer screening.
There are various methods available for the treatment of genital warts, ranging from topical medications to freezing or cryosurgery electrosurgery. But one must be prepared that warts can unfortunately recur as the treatment for warts addresses the effects of a HPV infection but does not clear the virus from your body.
The best defence we have against genital warts is the HPV vaccine – Gardasil 9, which provides immunity against certain wart causing strains of HPV.

3) What are the Causes of Genital Ulcers?

When people think of genital ulcers, often the first few causes that spring to mind may be herpes or syphilis. However, genital ulcers can be due to other infections as well as rarer, non-infective causes such as autoimmune diseases.
This is why various tests are useful in differentiating the causes of genital ulcers. The treatment of choice varies drastically depending on what the underlying cause is.
Caused by Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

  • Herpes Simplex Virus (Common)
  • Syphilis (Common)
  • Chancroid (Rare)
  • LGV (Rare)
  • Donovanosis (Rare)

Non-infective causes

  • Behcet’s (Autoimmune)
  • Crohn’s disease (Autoimmune)
  • Fixed drug eruption (rare causes)
  • Skin Cancer (rare causes)

a) Herpes Simplex Virus

(Painful shallow ulcers and blisters)

As mentioned earlier, both genital blisters and ulcers are different stages of a herpetic flare. A genital skin swab test for the presence of HSV DNA is helpful in confirming HSV as the cause of genital ulcers.

b) Syphilis

(Painless ulcers)

Syphilis can cause ulcers both during its primary and secondary stages.  A chancre, a painless round ulcer, occurs in primary syphilis, while in secondary syphilis, multiple painless ulcers may occur as well. One of the defining traits of a syphilitic ulcer is its painlessness.
These ulcers may be accompanied by other symptoms such as a rash elsewhere on the body.

C) Chancroid

(Multiple painful deep ulcers and swollen groin lymph nodes)

Chancroid is a painful ulcer which is frequently associated with enlarged and painful inguinal (groin) lymph nodes. These are located along your underwear line and may be felt as tender swollen lumps. There are usually several or multiple deep and painful ulcers.
This is caused by a bacterium called Hemophilus ducreyi, which is transmitted through sexual contact. Painful lymph nodes and negative test results for both Herpes and syphilis support this diagnosis. The good news is that antibiotic treatment can clear this up.

Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV)

Small ulcer, swollen groin lymph nodes, possible rectal pain

Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) is an uncommon cause of genital ulcers. It is caused by the bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis (serovars L1-3). This Chlamydia is different from the “subtype” of Chlamydia trachomat is that causes the common STD you are thinking about. A Rapid Chlamydia & Gonorrhoea PCR test will be about to detect the infection.
The ulcer it causes tends to be small and often goes unnoticed. The lymph node swelling is dramatic and painful and may even discharge pus.
If this was acquired through anal intercourse, inflammation of the anal and rectal canal (known as “proctitis”) can occur, causing rectal pain, bleeding and discharge and diarrhoea.

Donovanosis

Shallow beefy looking ulcers

This is again a rare cause of genital ulcers in the developed world. It is caused by a bacterium called Klebsiella granulomatis and causes shallow ulcers which may bleed easily. This is usually diagnosed with a punch biopsy, which is when a sample of skin tissue is removed for evaluation in the lab.

Other rare causes:

Autoimmune or inflammatory causes, skin cancers, drug reactions

“Autoimmune” diseases occur when your body’s immune system has a tendency to attack itself and one of the many manifestations can be genital ulcers. These are rare and treatment is by a specialist doctor. These ulcers will go away only with good control of the underlying disease.
Sometimes, a bad reaction to a certain medication may cause a persistent, painful ulcer.
Very rarely, genital ulcers may be due to cancer.

All in All

The good news is that most of the above mentioned causes for genital blisters, warts and ulcers can be treated. But an even better step would be to protect yourself from even developing these – safe sexual practices (using barrier protection, doing your regular sexual health screening, and getting the HPV vaccine) are your best bet against these.
Take Care!


  1. HPV Infection & HPV Vaccination for Men who have sex with Men
  2. Do I Have HIV Rash? Or Are They Other STD-Related Rashes?
  3. How Late Can a Period Be (Delayed Menstrual Cycle)
  4. What are the Causes of Abnormal Penile Discharge?
  5. STD Risk for Receptive Unprotected Anal Sex in Men
  6. Low HIV Risk Doesn’t Mean No HIV Risk
  7. HIV PrEP for Travel – How You Need to Know
  8. An Overview on STD from an STD Doctor
  9. Everything You Need to Know About Herpes Simplex Virus
  10. How Do I Treat Oral Herpes (Cold Sores)
  11. Syphilis Symptoms – Painless Sore & Ulcers
  12. HIV Symptoms – What You Need to Know
  13. 10 Common HIV related to Opportunistic Infections

What is the Treatment for Cold Sores? What Causes Cold Sores?

What exactly is a cold sore?
You have probably heard of cold sores or even have had one at some point in your life. But perhaps you’re not entirely sure of what it is caused by and what else you may need to be concerned about.
A cold sore is a small, painful, fluid-filled blister that most commonly occurs near the mouth or on the face, although it may infrequently appear elsewhere on the body. Cold sores tend to occur in clusters.  The appearance of a cold sore is sometimes preceded by an unusual tingling or itching sensation over the same area.
The blisters then form and eventually burst, leaving shallow ulcers/open sores which scab over, forming a crusty lesion. They may come and go, with each flare lasting up to a few weeks.

What Causes Cold Sores?


Cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus

There are two types of Herpes Simplex Viruses (HSV) – Type 1 and Type 2.
Cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (Type 1), and genital sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (Type 2).

Herpes Simplex Viruses (Type 1)

HSV-1 usually causes cold sores, while HSV-2 tends to be responsible for genital sores. HSV-1 is extremely common in the general population, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimating 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 have HSV-1 globally.
Herpes Simplex Viruses (HSV) is transmitted through body secretions.
HSV-1 can be transmitted through saliva via kissing, or sharing of utensils (oral-to-oral transmission), but oral-to-genital secretion can also occur through oral intercourse. This means that someone with cold sores can transmit HSV-1 to their partner’s genitals, resulting in genital sores. An STD Screening can screen for both herpes simplex viruses.
Individuals with HSV are most contagious when they have cold sores, but can still be infectious even when they have no sores or blisters.
Here’s a video about Herpes

Unfortunately, HSV infections are lifelong – meaning there is no cure for HSV and once infected a person carries the virus for life.
This is the reason why cold sores can flare up from time to time. There are certain triggers that can set off an outbreak of cold sores- for instance, environmental factors such as sunlight and cold temperatures, or anything which weakens your immune system, such as an illness, or medications which suppress your immunity.

What is the Treatment for Cold Sores?

Antivirals can help clear up and keep cold sores away.
While there is no cure for HSV, the good news is that anti-viral medications (treatment for cold sores) are extremely effective in suppressing the virus and can be used to treat an outbreak of cold sores, and even prevent or minimise future outbreaks.
Some people may not be significantly bothered by their cold sores, which flare up only occasionally and go away by themselves. However, if you are troubled by your symptoms and worried about transmission of the virus to people around you during a flare, anti-virals such as acyclovir or valacyclovir are available as both oral tablets and topical creams.
Sometimes, just the topical cream (treatment for cold sores) may be enough to address your cold sores but if they fail to respond or if your flare is particularly bad, your doctor may prescribe a short course of tablets on top of the cream.
If you are someone who experiences frequent and painful outbreaks of cold sores, or if you are concerned about transmitting the virus to your loved ones, then suppressive anti-viral therapy may be a good option for you. This is when you take the anti-viral medication on a daily basis in order to achieve continued suppression of the virus just like HIV treatment. This not only stops flares from occurring but also reduces your infectivity and the risk of transmitting HSV to others.
Now that you know a little more about, the cause of and, the treatment for cold sores, hopefully, this has helped you realise that you do not need to live with intermittent painful outbreaks. There are treatment options available in our clinics, so if this is an issue which has been troubling you, then it’s time to make that a thing of the past.
Take Care!

Other Interesting Reads:

  1. An Overview of STD – From an STD Doctor
  2. What are the Symptoms of HIV Infection and AIDS?
  3. Weak Erection? Erectile Dysfunction? How to Improve Erection with Pills
  4. Do I Have HIV Rash? Or Are They Other STD-Related Rashes?
  5. What are the Causes of Abnormal Penile Discharge?
  6. What You Need To Know about HPV, Cervical Cancer, Pap Smear & HPV Vaccination
  7. 11 Causes of Dyspareunia (Pain During Intercourse)
  8. 10 Common HIV-related Opportunistic Infections
  9. What is HPV Vaccination (Gardasil 9)
  10. 10 Causes of abnormal Vaginal Lumps and Bumps
  11. An Overview of Gonorrhoea
  12. Genital Warts: The Cauliflower-Like Lumps on the Genitals
  13. How Do I Get an Anonymous HIV Testing?
  14. Syphilis Symptoms (Painless STD Sores & STD Rashes) 

An overview of STD's from an STD Doctor

Sexually transmitted infections or diseases (STI’s/STD’s) are infections which are commonly spread through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

Some can even be spread just through direct skin-to-skin contact!

No one really talks about it, but sexually transmitted infections are very common, especially among young people – or rather, anyone who is sexually active is at risk!

Common Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) are some of the most common STI’s we encounter in the clinic.
Syphilis and HIV are less commonly seen, but of course, pose a risk of serious and even potentially life-threatening complications if left undiagnosed or untreated.

Here are just some of the signs and symptoms that may appear if you have a sexually transmitted infection:

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea

Did you know that up to 8% of sexually active females between the age of 16-40 will be carrying a chlamydia infection at any one time, and most will not have any symptoms at all!

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)

  • Fever and flu-like symptoms before the outbreak
  • Tingling, itching, or burning sensation where the blisters would appear
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Cold Sores
  • Crops of painful blisters/ulcers – these can vary in appearance and severity, and can be transmitted to any site of the body depending on exposure (e.g. mouth, hands, buttocks, eyes!)

It is estimated that 1 in 5 people in the US have genital herpes!

There is no way to fully eradicate the herpes virus once it has been contracted – it usually causes recurrent outbreaks of blisters, and can be transmitted even without visible ulcers.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

  • Certain types of HPV can cause genital warts – may appear as a small bump, or cluster of bumps, flat lesions, or ‘cauliflower-like’ protrusions with a small stem; sometimes these may be itchy or bleed if scratched
  • Most types of HPV are actually asymptomatic (no signs or symptoms), but can instead increase the risk of oral and genital cancers – these can be detected on screening (especially recommended for women > 30 years old, to be done together with a pap smear)

The newest HPV vaccine is now available, and will protect against 9 strains of the virus!

The US FDA has also recently extended the recommended coverage to males and females from ages 9 to 45 years old.

Syphilis

Known as ‘The Great Pretender’ as symptoms can mimic other conditions, and can vary greatly between individuals and depending on the stage of infection

  • Primary stage: usually presents with a solitary ulcer known as a chancre at site of initial infection, which is often painless and can be easily missed; may have associated swelling of lymph nodes as well
  • Secondary stage: can happen weeks after primary chancre has appeared and even healed, and presents with skin rashes and/or lesions over mucous membranes – the STD rash can occur on any part of the body, but typically also appears with reddish-brown spots over the palms and soles of feet
  • Tertiary stage: can occur many years (even decades) after infection was first acquired, and can affect multiple organ systems including the brain, nerves, heart, eyes, blood vessels, bones and joints

Learn More about Syphilis Symptoms (Painless Sore & Rashes) 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When should I see a doctor?

If you have any worrying symptoms or exposure risk, see a doctor immediately. However, it is important to remember that many people may not have any noticeable symptoms for any of these infections, or that symptoms may take a long time to develop (weeks to months), thereby increasing the risk of complications and also the risk of transmission to others. As such, it is recommended to perform regular STI screening at least once or twice a year for anyone who is sexually active even if there are no obvious symptoms. STD Testing may be done more frequently if there has been any potentially risky exposure. Risky exposures would include sex with someone who has had multiple sex partners, sex with commercial sex workers (CSW), or unprotected sex with a person of unknown status.

What is the ‘window period’ for testing?

The window period refers to the time period following exposure where it may be still too early to detect infection with full accuracy. Different infections will have different window periods for detection. For bacterial infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, this period is fairly short, and most cases can be accurately detected 1-2 weeks post-exposure. However, for blood tests (e.g. HIV, syphilis) we usually recommend at least one-month post-exposure for accurate results. For concerns on specific infections, it is best to speak to the doctor who can advise you most clearly in person.

What will happen when I see the doctor?

Screening is a simple procedure and will include a thorough consultation with a doctor, physical examination if necessary, and either blood and/or urine or swab tests. You will need to find a doctor you can be comfortable speaking with about your risk and symptoms, as it will guide us to determine the most appropriate tests for you.

How soon can I get my results?

Most tests that we send to the lab will have a turnaround time of 3-5 working days. We also have Rapid STD Testing available in all our clinics for the “Big Four”: HIV and syphilis (results in 20 minutes), and chlamydia and gonorrhoea (next day results).
Earlier diagnosis means earlier and more effective treatment, reducing the risk of late-stage complications and also minimizing the risk of further transmission. 

Learn More: What are the symptoms of HIV and AIDS?

Will my medical information be revealed to anyone else?

Your medical information is strictly private and confidential, and will not be shared with any other individual or organization. Only HIV infection is notifiable by law in Singapore – this means that if you did a lab-based HIV test and it came back positive for HIV, this result would have to be notified to the Ministry of Health.

However, our Robertson Walk Branch has been mandated to perform rapid HIV testing anonymously – this means that no matter the result, it will not be notified to the Ministry of Health. The Robertson Walk clinic is the only DTAP branch that can do HIV testing anonymously.

Can these infections be cured?

Many of these infections are treatable and can be fully cured/eradicated. Certain infections require longer courses of treatment and/or clearance testing to ensure they are cleared.
However, there are a few infections which can be treated with medications but may not be fully curable, such as herpes, hepatitis B, and HIV. Your doctor will advise you in more detail should your tests show any abnormal results. (see HIV Treatment)

If you or your partner are experiencing any possible signs or symptoms of infection, or have had any potential risk exposures, please see a doctor today.

Take Care. Be Safe!


Other Interesting Reads:

  1. What You Need To Know about HPV, Cervical Cancer, Pap Smear & HPV Vaccination
  2. World AIDS Day (2018) #KnowYourStatus – By Dr Tan Kok Kuan
  3. Weak Erection? Erectile Dysfunction? How to Improve Erection with Pills
  4. Do I Have HIV Rash? Or Are They Other STD-Related Rashes?
  5. What are the Causes of Abnormal Penile Discharge?
  6. 4 Things You Need to Know About Penile Health
  7. Sexual Health Advice For Travellers 
  8. Mycoplasma Genitalium Testing & Treatment
  9. What are the Symptoms of HIV Infection and AIDS?
  10. Things You Need to Know about Travelling & HIV PrEP
  11. 11 Causes of Dyspareunia (Pain During Intercourse)
  12. What is HPV Vaccination (Gardasil 9)
  13. 10 Causes of abnormal Vaginal Lumps and Bumps
  14. An Overview of Gonorrhoea
  15. What is the Treatment for Cold Sores? What causes Cold Sores?
  16. Herpes: Everything You Need to Know!


We provide a discreet, comfortable and private environment for you to discuss your STD/HIV related medical matters.