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Infectious Diseases

Herpes?

05/03/2005

Question:

I am a college student and i am sexually active. About a year ago i noticed flaky scabs on my penis that when rubbed would flake off. They went away after a few weeks or so and have not returned. They were not painful but made me worry. I read an article about Herpes and noticed that scabs were a symptom. I never experianced any other symptoms that were discussed in the article but the scabs and the way they flaked off concerned me. Could i have Herpes? How can i find out in a private manner?

Answer:

As you note, herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause scabbing and sores. Typically lesions from herpes do not start out as scabs and flakes, but begin as painful vesicles (blisters) that then scab over. Another common finding with herpes is that the lesions are painful. Herpes vesicles and scabbing may occur just once with the initial infection or there may be repeated episodes over the course of a lifetime. There are blood tests that can be done to tell if a person has been exposed to herpes, but these are not 100% effective and getting an answer; these tests are also unlikely to indicate if a particular episode was herpes. Speaking with a personal physician might be the best way to review a history and symptoms to see if herpes is present. Additionally, student health clinics and local public health clinics (including sexually transmitted diseases clinics) have trained personnel who are familiar either sexually transmitted diseases and may be able to provide appropriate guidance and counseling. Any sort of counseling about prevention of sexually transmitted disease should include discussions about abstinence and prophylactic measures (e.g., condoms) that reduce the likelihood of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection.

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Response by:

Stephen   Kralovic, MD Stephen Kralovic, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati