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We used a condom at first, but then we stopped. That’s when I noticed this red rash and skin-colored bumps. What are they?
My girlfriend and I recently started having sex. When we had sex for the first time, I used a condom and everything was fine. Then, she got on the pill and we stopped using a condom. That’s when I developed a red rash and many skin-colored bumps on the shaft, scrotum and anus that are uncomfortable, but not painful. I don’t feel sick and I don’t have any trouble peeing. Is this an allergic reaction to her birth control or something that her body makes? Or, do I have an STD?
David Sobel, MD, JD on September 27, 2011
Thank you for your detailed description of your symptoms. It’s hard to know what the bumps are without a visual examination so I encourage you to visit your doctor...but I’m glad to provide you some information to help you understand some possible causes of your discomfort.
First, about your allergy concern…it’s unlikely that you’re having an allergic reaction to your girlfriend’s birth control or her vaginal fluids.
However, you might be allergic to something else your body is coming into contact with, like a new soap, lotion or lubricant you’re using.
Some other possible causes of a rash and skin-colored bumps on your penis, scrotum and anus include several relatively harmless skin conditions like psoriasis or molluscum contagiosum, or a yeast infection…even ingrown hairs or otherwise inflamed hair follicles. Although these aren’t dangerous to your health, your doctor can help you with treatment to clear up these issues and help relieve your discomfort.
There are also some STDs that can cause genital bumps and rashes…including genital warts or genital herpes, among others. Remember, hormonal birth control methods (like the Pill) help prevent pregnancy…but they do nothing to protect you from STDs.
And many STDs don't show signs or symptoms…at least not right away. Even though only you are showing symptoms now, you or your girlfriend might have had a silent infection for some time.
If either of you were previously infected with an STD and you haven’t been tested to know each other’s STD status, there’s a possibility that one or both of you are carrying an infection...and that you unknowingly spread an infection when you stopped using condoms.
Talking to your doctor and STD testing are two good next steps...if you or your girlfriend test positive for an STD, you can start any necessary treatment right way. When it comes to STDs, early detection is key to effective treatment…so the sooner you know your status, the better.
You can learn more about STD risks, symptoms, prevention, testing and treatment in our Expert Guide to STD Basics.
Finally, practice safer sex. Unless you and your girlfriend are STD-free and you’re sure that you’re in a mutually monogamous relationship (sex with only one partner), it’s a good idea to use latex condoms or dental dams during every sexual encounter.
I wish you both good health, and I hope you’ll continue to take care of yourselves and each other.
Dr. Sobel is a Colorado-based urologist and Director of the Denver Center for Men’s Health. His areas of expertise include men's sexual health and all areas of urology, including urologic oncology, treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy, stone disease and incontinence. Dr. Sobel was educated at the University of Michigan Law School and the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, and completed his residency at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL.