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Painless penile ulcer and tender inguinal lymphadenopathy

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Our patient had previously been treated for syphilis. But when his symptoms persisted, further testing revealed that he was being treated for the wrong STD.



A 38-year-old man presented to our emergency department with a 2-day history of fever, general malaise, and a painless genital ulcer. He denied having any abdominal pain, myalgias, arthralgias, or other rashes. He had been treated about a month earlier on an outpatient basis with penicillin for a presumed diagnosis of syphilis, but his symptoms did not resolve. His medical history included well-controlled human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B, hypertension, anxiety, and fibromyalgia for which he took lisinopril, emtricitabine/tenofovir, metoprolol, and darunavir/cobicistat. He smoked a half-pack of cigarettes a day and had unprotected sex with men.

On physical examination, the patient was febrile (103.1° F) with otherwise normal vital signs. A genital examination revealed a nontender, irregularly shaped 8-mm ulcer at the base of the glans penis (FIGURE). Tender unilateral inguinal lymphadenopathy was noted on the right side.

Penile ulcer

A chart review showed a normal CD4 count (obtained 2 months earlier). We were unable to access the results of his outpatient rapid plasma reagin test for syphilis. Due to the patient’s degree of pain from his lymphadenopathy, fever, and general malaise, he was admitted to the hospital for overnight observation.



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