Anonymous on September 28, 2011

I’ve been getting friction burns on my penis with sex...or am I allergic to something? Can you help?

My girlfriend and I just recently started having sex. Unfortunately, I’ve been getting friction burns on my penis...or maybe it’s some type of allergic reaction to her? Is there a way to get rid of these symptoms other than not having sex?

answered by Daniel Perlman, MD, MBA on September 28, 2011

I’m sorry to hear about your uncomfortable symptoms, but I’ll do my best to outline some possible causes. For an examination and definite diagnosis, however, be sure to see your regular doctor.

I’ll start by asking, do you use condoms? If the "burns" on your penis are from friction, using a condom as a barrier may help (condoms, as you know, also help prevent unintended pregnancies and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections and other contagious conditions).

You can also reduce friction by using a water-based lubricant during intercourse.

As for your concern about allergies…you’re right that penis redness and tenderness can be caused by allergies, but it’s unlikely that you’re allergic to your girlfriend. Rather, if you’ve been using latex condoms, you could be allergic to latex (but that’s rare in people who don’t work with latex gloves often). Or, you might be allergic to a lubricant you’ve been using...or a new soap, lotion, laundry detergent or medication. Again, if you think you’re having an allergic reaction, you should talk to your doctor or a dermatologist.

Have you been tested for STDs? Depending on your level of risk for STDs (for example, having unprotected sex with someone whose STD status you don’t know), there’s a chance that your symptoms signal a sexually transmitted infection, like herpes, syphilis, crabs or scabies.  

If you haven’t been tested for a full array of common STDs recently, doing so can help put your mind at ease. If you test negative, you can rule out a sexually transmitted infection as the cause of your symptoms. And if you test positive, there are treatment options available to you, to cure or control your symptoms and prevent possible complications of untreated STDs. 

If it turns out that you do have an STD…I would encourage your girlfriend to get tested, too (and treated, if necessary). 

You can learn more about preventing STDs ⎼ as well STD symptoms, testing and treatment ⎼ in our Expert Guide to STD Basics.

Thanks for taking the time to share your important questions with us. I wish you and your girlfriend good luck and good sexual health.

Related info:

Daniel Perlman, MD, MBA

Dr. Perlman is a Colorado-based infectious disease specialist (including HIV and other STDs) in private practice at Greater Denver Infectious Diseases. Additionally, he is Assistant Clinical Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Dr. Perlman was educated at theUniversity of Maryland School of Medicine, and completed his residency in internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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