Penis-Related Symptoms That Could Indicate an STD

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections passed through sexual contact. While some may be relatively mild, others can cause problems ranging from pain to infertility and cancer.

This article outlines the signs and symptoms of an STD both on the penis and on other parts of the body. It also describes several non-STD-related conditions that can cause many of the same symptoms.

Doctor giving advice to patient

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Penile Symptoms

STDs often cause symptoms that affect the penis or groin area. These symptoms can be caused by things other than an STD but, just to be safe, have it checked out by a doctor.

If you have an STD, there are five common symptoms that can affect the penis:

  • Penile pain or discomfort: Pain or discomfort with urination or ejaculation may also be a sign of an STD.
  • Discharge from the penis: A thick white, yellow, or green discharge from the tip of the penis may be a sign of gonorrhea. A clear discharge may be an indication of chlamydia.
  • Single sore on the penis: With syphilis, a hard, painless sore (called a chancre) may appear on the penis.
  • Painful blisters: A cluster of painful or itchy red spots or blisters on the penis or scrotum may be a sign of genital herpes. Typically, the pain or itching comes first, followed a day or two later by the appearance of blisters.
  • Swollen testicles: Orchitis (inflammation of the testicles) can be caused by many things, but STDs like gonorrhea or chlamydia are the most common causes. There may also be pain and a sensation of heaviness.

Recap

Signs of an STD involving the penis include pain with urination, pain with ejaculation, swollen testicles, penile discharge, a single large sore, or a cluster of tiny, painful blisters.

Other Symptoms

STD can cause symptoms elsewhere on the body. Some may involve other parts of the male genitalia or the body as a whole:

  • Anal blisters or sores: Clusters of tiny, painful blisters on the anus are indicative of genital herpes passed through anal sex. Anal sex can also lead to a large, open sore on the anus due to syphilis.
  • Swollen lymph nodes: Swollen lymph nodes in the groin (called inguinal lymph nodes) are common with many STDs. With HIV, swollen lymph nodes are common around the neck (called cervical lymph nodes).
  • Itchy pubic hair: Itchy pubic hair can occur with pubic lice ("crabs"). if you look closely, you will likely see grey or brownish eggs attached to the base of the hair shaft and may even see lice crawling on the skin
  • Linear red, itchy bumps: A scabies infestation will cause red, itchy bumps, which typically appear in lines. Scabies can affect the genital and other parts of the body as well.
  • Widespread rash: Widespread rash can develop in some people who have recently been exposed to HIV. The same can occur with secondary syphilis, the form of the disease that develops years after the initial syphilis infection
  • Flu-like symptoms: Headache, fever, chills, body aches, and fatigue affect many people during the early stages of HIV.

Some of these symptoms are easily confused with other conditions. Because of this, it is important to consider whether an STD is involved if odd symptoms appear shortly after sexual contact, particularly if no condoms were used.

Recap

STDs like genital herpes, syphilis, scabies, pubic lice, and HIV can cause symptoms on other parts of the body, including the groin, anus, pubic hair, or the body as a whole. Swollen lymph nodes are common with many different types of STDs.

Non-STD-Related Conditions

Sometimes penis infections happen for other reasons besides an STD. Because of this, you not should be embarrassed to seek a diagnosis if you have symptoms of an STD. It may end up being nothing or, in rare instances, be something far more serious that requires immediate medical treatment.

Examples include:

  • Balanitis: Pain and inflammation of the head of the penis, most often in uncircumcised males
  • Penile yeast infection: Also known as penile candidiasis, caused by a fungus known as Candida albicans
  • Testicular torsion; A medical emergency involving the abnormal twist of a testicle
  • Penile cancer: A rare type of cancer that can cause a sore on the penis, trouble urinating, and a penile discharge

In the end, only an STD test can tell whether you have an STD or not.

Recap

Just because you have symptoms of an STD doesn't mean that you have an STD. Only an STD test can confirm that.

Summary

Many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and herpes can cause symptoms involving the penis and/or scrotum. These include pain with urination, pain with ejaculation, swollen testicles, a visible discharge from the penis, and penile sores.

STDs can also cause symptoms in other parts of the body or the body as a whole. These include swollen lymph nodes, anal sores (associated with anal sex), itchy pubic hair, widespread rash, and even flu-like symptoms. Some of these are so non-specific that they can be easily mistaken for other medical conditions.

Symptoms alone cannot diagnose an STD. Only an STD can confirm that.

A Word From Verywell

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call your healthcare provider right away and ask for an appointment so you can be tested and, in the event of a positive diagnosis, receive the appropriate treatment.

While awaiting diagnosis, you should use barrier protection (such as a condom) for any sexual activity. If a diagnosis is confirmed, be sure to alert any sexual partners. They may also need to be tested and treated.

Be sure to engage in safer sex practices moving forward if you aren't already.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the symptoms of a yeast infection in men?

    While yeast infections are usually thought of as a female condition, males can get them too. Some of the symptoms of a male yeast infection include burning with urination, sores on the foreskin, white patchy skin, itchiness, a foul-smelling discharge, and pain during sex.

  • Who is at the greatest risk of catching STDs?

    The risk varies by the STD type. Syphilis is more likely to occur in newborns, women, and men who have sex with men (MSM). Gonorrhea is most likely to affect women and MSM, while chlamydia is most common in women. No matter your gender or sexual orientation, using condoms and other safer sex practices is essential.

  • How common are STDs?

    STDs are very common. There were 26 million new infections reported in 2018, the majority of which involved people between the ages of 15 and 24.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. STD Facts - Gonorrhea. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/stdfact-gonorrhea.htm.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. STD Facts - syphilis.

  3. STD Facts - Genital Herpes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes.htm.

  4. Urology Care Foundation. What are yeast infections?

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC fact sheet: Reported STDs in the United States.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Fact Sheet: Information for Teens and Young Adults: Staying Healthy and Preventing STDs.