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Herpes - Swollen lymph nodes
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Herpes - Swollen lymph nodes

I am a 21 year old heterosexual male and I had unprotected sex with a female friend 16 days ago. Approximately 5 days ago, I began experiencing a noticeable swelling in my groin lymph nodes (I have only experienced swelling in the lymph nodes on the right side of my body, not the left side). The pain was never significant, but always noticeable and I went to the doctor and he confirmed that my groin lymph nodes were swollen/enlarged, but he said it was too early to test for herpes. The swelling has more or less subsided today (though the lymph node is still enlarged), but I am worried that the timing of the swelling (11 days after sexual contact) is a fairly textbook herpes symptom. I have spoken with the girl and to her knowledge she is clean, but I also know that most people who have genital herpes don't know it. I have no other symptoms (I have been checking myself obsessively) except for a tension headache that I have been giving myself from agonizing so much. This is the first time I have ever had unprotected sex and the first time that my groin lymph nodes have ever swollen, so I'm pretty sure there is a connection between the two. I have two basic questions:

1.) Is genital herpes the most likely thing causing the swelling? What I want to know is if it is possible that I have contracted some other sexually transmitted disease or is it possible that I have no STD at all?

2.) I want to get tested but I'm worried that I won't have developed any antibodies yet so a blood test might be worthless. What's the minimum I should wait before getting tested?

Thanks
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You are unlikely to have lymph node enlargement due to herpes in the absence of overt herpes skin lesions.  Lymph node swelling in the groin is very common, often due to unnoticed inflammatory lesions of the leg, foot, etc (even a stubbed toe can do it); so it is likely that symptom is coincidental, not directly related to your recent sexual expsoure.  Also, not many 16 year olds have genital herpes, so you partner wasn't infected.  (One of the uncertainties about herpes is why it is so much more common in older sexually active persons.  Whereas the highest risks for gonorrhea and chlamydia occur at age 15-25, HSV-2 infections most commonly are acquired at age 25-35.)

So I'm not so sure you need a herpes blood test.  But if you decide to do it, wait until at least 6 weeks pass.  In the meantime, if the lymph node enlargement resolves, don't worry too much; but of course if it continues or worsens, see a health care provider.

Good luck--  HHH, MD
7 Comments
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Doctor H.,

He's not 16.  He's 21 and stated that he had the exposure 16 days ago.  Just FYI.
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Avatar_n_tn
Should you also say your partner most likely doesnt have herpes unstead of such a sure answer
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Thank you very much for your prompt and thorough response. I just want to clarify that the girl was my same age, 21, not 16. In light of this information, would your response to my question differ?

Also, just to clarify, you are saying that most of the time that people have swollen lymph nodes due to herpes it's accompanied by a physical (lesion-based) outbreak? That's reassuring information. Thanks.

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239123_tn?1267651214
Sorry I read your message too quickly, re partner age.  That makes it statistically more likely your partner could have had HSV-2; but still, most 21 year olds aren't infected.  But have you asked her?

In 30+ years in this business, I have never seen a case of inguinal (groin) lymph gland enlargement, without genital lesions, that turned out to be herpes.  But I can't say it never happens.

HHH, MD
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What do "genital lesions" look like?
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For about a year and a half to two years now, I have suffered from swollen lymph nodes in my groin and under-arms.  They are not always swollen, they come and go. A few months will go by with nothing, then they swell up and then go back down within a week, two weeks at most. I have yet to have this checked out because I don't have any medical coverage and I have yet to experiance any other symptoms, meaning, I've never had any lesions, or burning urination.  Any advice you can give would be helpful.

thanks
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University of Washington
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