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Avatar universal

Difference between herpes and primary syphilis sore?

Is it possible to tell the difference between a herpes sore and a primary syphilis sore?  I have genital herpes, but I had a very very brief oral encounter ( I had my penis sucked for about 3-5 seconds) before I pulled out and cleaned with soap and water.

I am concerned with 2 sores, which I'm almost sure are herpes (I was itchy first, then they came up) around the same part of my penis that I had just gotten over a herpes outbreak.  They are very small, and look a tiny bit dimpled.  They are probably just another herpes outbreak, but I'm scared it's syphilis.

Are there any obvious differences between the two?  I'm not just talking about googling images, because some of them look very similar.  I'd like to know if anyone here could verbalize the differences, if possible...

Is one bigger than the other?
Does a syphilis sore cause itchy skin before it presents?
Can you get more than one syphilis sore?
Do syphilis sores scab at some point?
Compared to herpes (which I have), does syphilis bleed, ooze, get sticky, etc?

If anyone can help verbalize the differences, and perhaps assess my risk with the above encounter, I would appreciate it.

Thank you.
22 Responses
Avatar universal
3-5 second encounter...would not worry about syphilis from that or just about any encounter. syphilis is rare in developed countries
The problem with trying to help you is there is a herpes community and people there know about herpes and i can tell you about syphilis but i do not know anything about herpes so i can't tell you a difference between the 2.
I can tell you that a syphilis sore would show up on average 21 days after exposure. Was your exposure a lot shorter or longer then that?
As for your specific questions
1. I don't know
2. Not that i have ever heard
3. I am not 100% sure on that but i don't think so
4. bleed no, ooze not really, sticky-probably
Avatar universal
Thanks, Vance.  I'm no sure I understand your question, "Was your exposure a lot shorter or longer than that?"

I personally think this is a herpes breakout.  They seem to be totally dry.
Avatar universal
Do you folks think this incident warrants testing for STDs?
Avatar universal
What I mean is last time you had unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex, was it about 21 days before you saw the sore that could be syphilis?
Avatar universal
Vance, I believe that they appeared about 6-9 days after, and possibly even sooner than that.

Today is day 26, and I've probably had them at least 2 weeks.
Avatar universal
Well it would be too soon for syphilis. Probably herpes like you think.
Avatar universal
Vance - I already know I have HSV-2.  Tested and confirmed.

And I know I should wait 6 weeks to do a panel, but I'm asking if testing is warranted after an exposure like I described.

Avatar universal
No testing would not be medically advised based on everything I have read from the experts forum. Also syphilis is rare in developed countries. In America only 20,000 cases last year and majority were inthe gay community.
I know you have HSV so that is why I said it sounds like you have said.
Avatar universal
Thanks - I was concerned, because my encounter was with a gay man, presumably promiscuous (internet hookup)...  Does that change your opinion at all, that the encounter was with someone in the homosexual community?

Also, some quick follow-up questions that I would love your insight on.

Regarding gonorrhea, if the person doing the sucking had it, is it true that the site of infection is at the back of the throat, and if he only sucked like the first few inches and did not deep throat during that 5 or so second encounter, that the chances of me catching it would be lessened?

And also, regarding testing for gonorrhea - is it true that a man could get gonorrhea and if it cleared up within 6 weeks?  The reason I ask is that if I ever find myself needing to get an STD panel done, I would wait 6 weeks for the syphilis test, but could I have acquired, and passed on gonorrhea to another partner, and then be cleared up and get a negative result by 6 weeks?

Thank you very much for your answers.
Avatar universal
Not really because the amount of time you were inside his mouth and when the symptom started.

Oral are taking a low risk exposure (in general) and making it even lower. It is not worth even thinking about due to the low risk nature of it.

I have read from the Dr's that gonorrhea can clear up on it's own...I have to take there word for it. I can tell you that 90% of men show symptoms.
So yes you can wait 6 weeks...test and be negative and possibly pass it on to someone else in the mean time. But from the amount of time the oral sex took place you are talking about taking a low risk situation to start with and making it even lower.

From your overall exposure I see no need to test unless you want to ease your mind.
Avatar universal
Vance, your "not really" comment at the top is referring to the fact that your opinion doesn't change because he is a gay man, or because he didn't deep throat me.

Also, I was under the impression that most men DO NOT show symptoms of gonorrhea, at least that's the impression I got from searching official websites.  So - most men - in fact ALMOST ALL men would show signs of gonorrhea?

I haven't had any dripping.  I had a "heavy" feeling in my penis before the blisters appeared, but that could have just been a prodrome.

Avatar universal
not really is because of the time of exposure and the low risk situation of passing gonorrhea from oral sex.

Yes, most men do show symptoms of gonorrhea, chlymida is a different story but not a risk with oral sex. You can check out the expert forum and see how many times an oral sex question is asked and the Dr's say without discharge no need for testing.
Avatar universal
Got it.  That makes sense, thanks.

What is the major route of transmission for gonorrhea?  I always thought that it was the most common STD a man could get when receiving oral sex.  I just assumed that the way most people got gonorrhea was by getting a *******, and that was the reason why it might be more prevalent in the homosexual community...

Avatar universal
It is the most common STD for oral sex, but even that it does not happen a lot. Most people get gonorrhea from unprotected vaginal sex.
Avatar universal
Vance, a few posts ago you said, "Well it would be too soon for syphilis. Probably herpes like you think."

Did you mean it would be too soon to test for syphilis, or that the lesions appeared too soon after my potential exposure to be syphilis?

Thanks in advance for your clarification.
Avatar universal
That they appeared too soon for syphilis. On average it appears in 21 days. And 6-9 days or even less like you said is way too soon. At the very least your probably talking about 14 days.
Avatar universal

Yesterday, out of either guilt or obsession (but likely both), I went to get an STD test.  They do a urine test for gonorrhea and chlamydia, and a blood test for HIV and syphilis.

Mostly, I went for the gonorrhea and chlamydia test, since I know those would be conclusive at this time.  I wanted to make sure I tested before it would possibly have cleared up on its own.

It was 27 days since my brief exposure.  If I had gonorrhea/chlamydia, is there a chance it would have cleared up so fast and produced a negative result?  I'm assuming that there's no way that could happen, that if I got it 27 days ago, it would still be positive, right?

I asked the clinician if I could do my urine tests that day, and come back in a few weeks for the blood.  She asked me how long ago my exposure was, and I said "4 weeks" (really 1 day less than 4 weeks) - and she said, "you're fine for all the tests".  Is that blatant misinformation being handed out?

And are syphilis tests like HIV tests - they are more accurate the further out they are administered from the exposure, but they still maintain a level of accuracy if taken early?  For example, a syphilis test taken at 4 weeks could be 80% accurate, versus 99% accurate if taken at 6 weeks?

Finally, if the test results come back negative for syphilis, would that mean the lesions on my penis could not have been syphilis and just another herpes outbreak?  Would a syphilis blood test always be positive (regardless of the timing of the test) if there was an actual syphilis lesion present, or are the the two unrelated?

I hope you understand my questions.

Thank you.
Avatar universal
27 days...yes it would be positive still. I believe the Dr's say it can clear up in a couple of months.
No not misinformation but will not give 100% on all tests. She might not have enough education on the subjects.

Yes that is right, the closer it is to the specificed time frame the better the result will be.

If you had syphilis and had a sore then chances are pretty good that you would have tested positive for syphilis.
Avatar universal
I received most of the results of my STD panel.  27 days after my encounter above, I tested negative for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and HIV (rapid test) - more thorough HIV test results should be here next week, though I don't think I had an HIV scare, so I'm not too concerned.

I have a few final questions, that I'd appreciate if you could answer:

1. The STD test was at 27 days after my encounter.  I never had gonorrhea symptoms (burning during urination, or unusual penile discharge).  Is it at all possible that I could have gotten gonorrhea, not shown classic symptoms, and got rid of the bacteria without medication to the point where I would test negative at 27 days?

2.  I mentioned that I had some blisters on my penis, that I thought were herpes.  Is it possible to test negative on a syphilis blood test at 27 days, if I actually had syphilis sores for two weeks, or were these really just herpes sores?

3.  The clinic said I could come back in a month to retest, since I was within the window period for the blood tests (syphilis, HIV).  Do you think my situation warrants additional testing for syphilis?

Thank you very much!
Avatar universal
1. Yes it is possible but not likely. Over 90% of men show symptoms and from your exposure makes it even less likely.
2.Can't say what they were but you don't get syphilis get one sore and it would be just appearing at about 21 days and you would still have it at 27 days.
3. No
Avatar universal
what if i had herpes before and now i have syphilis what is the risk?
Avatar universal
Start a thread dedicated just to your question and elaborate some.
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