Dear Alice,

I took a piss and found a purple mark on my penis. I have taken a blood test, and the results are on the way to check for HIV, but I can't wait. What do you think it is? Did I just masturbate too hard? I did just yesterday.

—Blue is my favorite color, not purple

Dear Blue is my favorite color, not purple,

Bruises and bumps are no fun, especially when they appear somewhere sensitive, like a penis. It's certainly possible that the purple mark you've noticed is a bruise, although bruising is not typically a symptom of HIV. Bruises develop when the small blood vessels under the skin get broken — what may have happened if you "masturbated too hard." A bruise will usually go away on its own within a few weeks. Another possibility is that blood pooled underneath the skin after an injury, causing a hematoma. Unlike with a regular bruise, the skin may feel lumpy or spongy. Like bruises, though, hematomas are not usually a cause for concern.

A purple mark on the skin might also be a blood spot. Blood spots may either be small, flat, red or purple spots or look more like a bruise. They are not caused by an injury. Sudden, unexplained, and/or more frequent blood spots or bruising may be due to inflammation of the blood vessels, some nutritional deficiencies, a bleeding or clotting disorder, or certain medications. You should see your health care provider if you notice that

  • The mark doesn't go away within a few weeks;
  • You notice other bruises or blood spots where you haven't been hurt;
  • You get large bruises after minor injuries;
  • You have bleeding from the gums, nose, or intestinal tract (blood in the stool); or
  • You are experiencing any pain,

as these can be signs of a more serious problem.

It sounds like your concerned about HIV. Do you think you've been exposed to the bodily fluids (sexual fluids or blood) of a person with HIV? HIV is commonly transmitted through having unprotected sex or sharing needles with an infected person — neither of which would necessarily lead to bruising or purple marks on a penis — but if you've had either type of exposure, you've taken a great first step by getting tested.  It may ease your mind to talk with your primary care provider. Since you've already had an HIV test, you can ask your her/him about other possible causes of the spot in question when you go to get your test results. Take care,


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