Tingling, blisters, and more -- herpes? Yeast? Syphilis? Please help.
Sorry about the length... this has been an ongoing saga, and it's driving me crazy with worry and depression. I'd love any input on similar experiences to my story, but feel free to skip to my specific questions at the end.
About three months ago, I started having unprotected vaginal and oral sex with my girlfriend (she started taking the pill). We'd both tested clean for STDs in the past, though I don't believe herpes was ever included, as seems oddly typical.
A week or so later, I developed a bad case of folliculitis (inflamed hair follicles) on my upper thighs, accompanied by an isolated blister on a hairless part of the shaft of my penis that, over the course of a week, progressed through what seemed like the typical stages of a herpes outbreak -- though it could've also been a folliculitis boil, which progresses through similar stages if large enough. I also experienced swelling and pain in my lymph nodes, and tingling/itching on my scrotum (which has continued to this day). My primary MD ruled out -- wrongly, I now realize -- the possibility of herpes, saying that it "always" appeared as a cluster of blisters, rather than just one, and refused to do a swab or blood test. The blister itself didn't hurt too badly, nor did it itch at all. And I would've chalked it up to the folliculitis if the symptoms didn't continue...
About a month or two later, I got what appeared to be a cold sore for the first time in my life. Though again, it was mild, and could very well have been an unfortunately-located pimple. It never burst or anything -- it was just a red bump. It was followed by intense itching all over the bottom portion of my face. It cleared up within 3-4 days -- a rather short time for an initial herpes outbreak, I realize, but I was obsessively treating it with meds so maybe that helped.
Being somewhat paranoid by this time, I also started noticing other signs, such as pain and a large clear blister-like thing on my pointer finger... but that might've always been there and I just didn't notice -- the scar from an old burn, maybe? In any case, it's been there six weeks now, and still hurts occasionally... can whitlow last that long during the primary outbreak?
Around this time, I saw a dermatologist who said that while herpes was a possibility, it was unlikely given that I didn't have direct contact with any visible sores, and that the isolated penis blister and scrotal tingling were most likely red herrings -- a result of some sort of eczema. I had a 7-week blood test, which came back negative for both types of HSV. My girlfriend's came back positive for type 1, but apparently that's very common, and she's never experienced any outbreaks. She did however have a mild yeast infection, and I'm getting conflicting information as to whether that's contagious or not, or whether that has the capacity to cause blisters in men.
This past week has brought the latest symptoms. I first noticed some isolated pains in my penis, and a day later noticed two raised red dots. They were tiny, almost appearing like slightly red/inflammed sebaceous glands. But maybe this was a very mild recurrence? I noticed a different sort of pain this time around -- it feels like it's more "inside," like in the urethra, and at the tip of my penis. The dots have mostly disappeared, but the tip pain remains, and I think I'm noticing a very small amount of clear discharge. The scrotal tingling/itching has doubled since the dots appeared.
My 12 week HSV blood test, which I just got the results of, was again negative, so I'm supposed to wait another three months to retest... but I really need answers now, as this is driving me insane and I'm terrified of spreading this to other areas on my body and/or to my girlfriend (assuming I didn't get it from her).
So in a nutshell,
1. Has anyone had an experience even remotely similar to this?
2. Could syphilis, eczema, or a yeast infection be other possibilities? It seems like syphilis could theoretically explain the blisters/mouth sores, but not the scrotal tingling, and yeast the exact opposite. I would've thought herpes would show up for sure by now in a blood test, and cause more itching/pain than it has.
3. Is constant scrotal tingling a sign of herpes? It seems like that should only be happening during a prodrome, but I've read in some other people's herpes stories that they too experienced that for awhile after being infected.
4. Can whitlow last 6+ weeks during a primary outbreak?
5. In your estimation, am I just reading too much into all these symptoms? Is it more likely a combination of other factors/infections?
Because your girlfriend tested negative for HSV2 - you could not have gotten it from her. You are correct that most people (80% or so) have HSV1 - and the chances she gave you HSV1 on your genitals from oral sex is extremely low - especially if she did not have a visible cold sore. Herpes outbreaks typically occur 4-10 days after infection, so if you contracted HSV from a previous partner, you would have likely had an outbreak a long time ago (unless of course, you are not monogamous with your current girlfriend). A 12-week HSV test is very reliable. I think you can trust those results.
Pimples, infected hair follicles, and ingrown hairs are common in the genital area. Eczema is also a possibility, but your dermatologist should have been able to easily recognize this. Men can get yeast infections; however, they typically do not cause any symptoms (men just pass it back to their partners). Syphilis is extremely rare in this county (only about 10,000 cases a year), and 2/3 occur in men you have sex with men. Also, you would have to have direct contact with a syphilis sore in order to contract it. Furthermore, the symptoms you describe do not sound like syphilis at all. I think you can safely rule this out.
In my opinion, I think you are worrying too much about symptoms that you probably would not even notice if not for your anxiety over having an STD. Also, anxiety will make you notice every single normal body sensation and interpret it as a symptom. With the test results and history you describe, you can be confident that you do not have herpes or any other STD.
1. I am sure someone has but most people don't hang around after they get an answer.
2. Not for everything that is going on and rule out syphilis...rare in developed countries and rare in women.
3. You have tested negative...believe your test
4. Not that I have ever heard.
5. Probably making a mountain out of a mole hill
6. Keep working with your Dr, but I highly doubt this is STD related.
Thanks for the input. I do fully realize my anxiety is probably getting the better of me. I should note that my 12 week results were, in the words of the lab, "negative, but borderline" (hence the retesting in three months), and that the test administered to my GF seems to be widely considered unreliable on the web (and not type-specific after all, oddly enough). Frustrating.
Herpes testing is notoriously frustrating to interpret and rely on. However, neither of you have any signs of a herpes infection (the bumps you describe are not characteristic of herpes), so I am sure you have little to worry about. The herpes forum here has a lot of very knowledgeable people who can explain the difficulties with herpes tests better than I can; however, it would probably best if you just let this go. The more you search online, the more contradictory info you will find, and the more your anxiety will increase and continue. You can go for a followup test in 3 months, but until then, try to let this issue go.
Just a quick update -- I hope someone can provide feedback based on this new info.
My girlfriend just got results back from her type-specific Herpeselect testing (as mentioned above, the previous testing was not type-specific after all), and is positive for both types 1 and 2.
Obviously, herpes is still questionable given my 12-week negative, but it occurred to me that maybe having been put on suppressive acyclovir is delaying my seroconversion -- is that a possibility? I've found conflicting information online, with the doctors in the expert forums here saying that it wouldn't delay anything, Terri Warren saying in some posts that it would, and a document that I read somewhere (maybe Quest Labs' site?) recommending that pregnant women stop taking antivirals during the last stages of their pregnancy on account of delaying the fetus' seroconversion...
Anyone have any insights? Have there been any recent studies into delayed seroconversion from antivirals? Having felt a lot of possible prodromal/OB symptoms recently, I'm hesitant to stop taking the acyclovir until my next blood test unless absolutely necessary.
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