Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on September 30, 2011

I haven’t had sex yet, but I have bumps on my scrotum and penis. What are they?

I think I may have a venereal disease. I'm 19 and haven't had sex…I have some bumps on my scrotum at the base of each hair and these bumps around the ridge of my penis head that look like pimples. I've had these for about three years, possibly longer. I'm scared as I’ve entered my first real relationship where sex is inevitable...can you tell me what I have?

answered by
Lisa Oldson, MD on September 30, 2011

Thanks for sharing your questions and concerns. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about venereal diseases, more commonly known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)…I’ll do my best to help.

It’s a good idea for you to see your regular doctor for a full visual examination and definite diagnosis of your symptoms. With that it mind, it sounds unlikely that you have an STD. Why? STDs are passed through sex. And if you haven’t had sex yet, it would be unlikely for you to have one. My sense is that the bumps and “pimples” you describe are harmless…in fact, it’s quite common to have bumps on the scrotum...but it’s still a good idea to have them examined by your doctor. 

The bumps you describe at the base of each hair follicle may just be normal hair follicles...or, you might have a slight inflammation of the hair follicles called folliculitis, which can occur when hair follicles are irritated through shaving or grooming. Hot, moist compresses may help drain the affected follicles. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotic cream or medications.

You mention that you haven’t had sex, yet…but keep in mind that, where STDs are concerned, “sex” includes oral sex, anal sex and vaginal sex, as well as genital rubbing. If you’ve participated in any of these sexual activities and you weren’t wearing a latex condom or using a dental dam (for giving a woman oral sex), I would encourage you to talk with your doctor about testing for STDs...just to be sure. 

And if it turns out that you test positive for an STD, don’t be overly concerned. All STDs are treatable and many are curable…and the sooner you know if you have an infection, the faster you can get relief from your symptoms. 

When you decide to become sexually active...I would encourage you and your partner to be open with each other about your sexual histories, and that you both use protection to reduce your risk of STDs and unintended pregnancy.

Remember, you can’t tell just by looking if someone has an STD. Most people with an STD don’t have symptoms right away. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that about 50 million Americans have genital herpes...but only about 10% of those people are aware of it.

That’s why using protection and regular testing are good rules of thumb.

To find out more about STD risk factors, symptoms, prevention and testing, please see our Expert Guide to STD Basics.

I wish you good luck and good health!

Related Info: 

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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