Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on October 18, 2011

Where can you get herpes?

I have some red spots at the base of my penis...is that a place where herpes can show up? 

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on October 18, 2011

Thanks for your question...I’m happy to help. There are two main places of the body where people typically can get herpes simplex virus: on and around the mouth, or on the genitals.

Usually, the type of herpes simplex virus that causes oral herpes is type 1 (HSV-1). More than half of all people in the United States will have an oral HSV-1 infection by the time they’re adults. For example, have you ever had a cold sore or fever blister? If so, there’s a chance that you have oral HSV-1.

The second type of herpes simplex virus is called HSV-2. This is the type that is most often associated with a genital herpes. However, HSV-1 can also cause a genital herpes infection. In fact, the number of people with genital HSV-1 infections has been rising – that’s because it’s possible to pass an oral HSV-1 infection to a partner’s genitals during unprotected oral sex. 

Bottom line, it’s common for signs of herpes to show up on or around the genitals...including the base of the penis. If you’re currently experiencing signs or symptoms of herpes, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to be tested with a swab test. But if your symptoms have gone away, you’ll a need a different test ⎼ the type-specific herpes antibody blood test ⎼ to confirm whether you’re positive for either strain of the herpes virus. 

If it turns out that you have herpes, you can get treated with medication that will help alleviate your discomfort and decrease the frequency of outbreaks.  

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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