Anonymous on September 26, 2011

Are itching and burning in the hands, feet and legs symptoms of HIV?

I had a sexual encounter last week with someone I didn’t know. We didn’t have vaginal sex, but I did place two fingers in her vagina and we both performed oral sex on one another. The day after, I started having itching and burning sensations in my hands, feet, legs, etc. Is this a symptom of HIV? Or another STD?

answered by Eric Christoff, MD, AAHIVM on September 26, 2011

I’m sorry to hear about your discomfort. I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

Are itching and burning symptoms of HIV? No, itching and burning are not common HIV symptoms. They are, however, possible symptoms of chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes. But any itching or burning sensations would normally occur in the infected area (the penis, vagina, anus or mouth), so the symptoms you have may be from something else.

To be on the safe side, see your regular doctor about your symptoms. And, because you’ve had unprotected sex, getting tested for common STDs is a good idea. 

Now, to answer some of your other related questions...

Can HIV symptoms show after only 24 hours? Probably not. Most HIV-positive people who have symptoms start to get them two to four weeks after exposure to the virus. And it can take more than 10 years for symptoms to show up in many HIV-positive people.

Can you get an STD from oral sex? Yes. Many STDs, including HIV, can spread through oral sex…especially unprotected oral sex. In future, to reduce your risk for HIV and other STDs, always use a condom or a dental dam, and make sure that you and your partner have no cuts, sores or open wounds in your mouths or on your genitals before sex.

Even better, for your health and safety, you and any new partner could get tested for a full panel of STDs before enjoying any sexual activity together. That way, if either of you test positive for an STD, you can get treated and take the proper precautions.

One more thing...were you sexually active before this latest encounter? STD symptoms can take a long time to show up…and some people never have symptoms until more serious complications from untreated STDs develop.

 If you do test positive for an STD, it’s possible that you were infected before your latest encounter…and if that’s the case, be sure to let you recent partner or partners know so they can get tested and treated, too. 

For more information about STD risks, prevention and testing, visit our Expert Guide to STD Basics and STD Testing Windows Guide. And for more specific about HIV symptoms, complications and treatment, see our Expert Guide to HIV

Thanks for getting in touch, and I wish you good health.

Related info:

Eric Christoff, MD, AAHIVM

Dr. Christoff is a practicing physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. His areas of expertise include the treatment of HIV and syphilis along with other STDs, the medical treatment of depression and chronic fatigue, and the specific health needs of gay and lesbian patients. Dr. Christoff was educated at the University of Toledo, College of Medicine and completed his residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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