Anonymous on September 26, 2011

I think my last girlfriend gave me something that causes a bad smell from my penis. What could it be?

My last girlfriend had a horrible smell from her vagina. We had unprotected sex and now I seem to have something of that smell, too. I notice the smell a couple of hours after I've urinated but don’t have pain when I pee. I have only had this smell since I had a sexual relationship with this girl. I'm thinking of going to my local clinic to get tested, but would like your advice first. This is stopping me from getting another girlfriend and it's making me depressed.

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

Thank you for your question...I know it can be confusing when symptoms suddenly appear that you’ve never had before.

You mention that you’re considering going to your local clinic to get tested...that’s a great idea. Getting tested for common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) after you’ve had unprotected sex is always a good idea...especially since you’ve noticed a change since then. 

That said, penis odor typically isn’t a sign of an STD in men. It’s possible that you’re noticing a smell from sweat, or even dried urine on you penis. In any case, I would encourage you to get checked by your regular doctor for a definite diagnosis of your symptoms. 

As for your previous partner...if she has a strong vaginal odor, it’s possible that she might have a vaginal infection (e.g., bacterial vaginosis or an STD like trichomoniasis). And if she ever mentioned symptoms like vaginal itching, discharge, burning, soreness, or pain during intercourse and urination, an infection is an even more probable cause of the odor. 

Luckily for her, these issues are all treatable...but she’ll need to see her doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Men can get yeast infections and trichomoniasis, too...but men usually don’t notice a strong odor with these infections. 

If it turns out that you have a yeast infection or trichomoniasis, they’re both easily curable...but, again, you’ll need to see your doctor. Of course, if you do have have trichomoniasis, I encourage you to tell your previous partner(s) to they can get tested, too, and treated if necessary. You can learn more about trichomoniasis here

And you might be interested to read more about STDs in general in our Expert Guide to STD Basics...including information about what kinds of behaviors put you at risk for STDs, how to help prevent STDs, and when to get tested. 

Thanks again for your question. I wish you good luck in resolving your symptom. 

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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