Blue Waffle Disease

If you are sexually active, there is always a risk of getting an STI. STI testing can help you receive a proper diagnosis and treatment options. Practicing safer sex with barrier methods can also help you reduce your risk of STIs. But, the good news is that you don’t need to worry about the fictitious blue waffle disease.

Blue Waffle Disease

An STD-related infection known as ‘blue waffle disease,’ and pictures thereof, are a hoax.

David Mikkelson

Published Apr 4, 2013

 (Circle Vector Texture / Shutterstock.com)

Image Via Circle Vector Texture / Shutterstock.com
A photograph shows an STD-related infection known as ‘blue waffle disease.’

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In April 2013, New Jersey city councilperson Kathy McBride became the object of some derision when, according to the Trentonian, she reported at a city council meeting that she had received an “alarming call” from a constituent who wanted to know “what was the City of Trenton doing about an epidemic that’s called the Blue Waffle Disease?” McBride was mocked for taking the issue seriously and not recognizing that she had apparently been taken in by an April Fool’s prank.

References to “Blue Waffle Disease” hit the Internet around March 2010 when an image ( disturbing image warning ) of scabbed, blue-tinted labia was circulated along with the claim that the image pictured a type of vaginal infection resulting from a sexually transmitted disease (a condition which was supposedly common enough that it had been identified and given the slang name “blue waffle disease”):

There is a rumor going around about a new STD called “Blue Waffle.”

“A ‘waffle’ is a slang term for a vagina. A ‘blue waffle’ is a slang term for a severe vaginal infection. It’s basically a slang term for an extremely nasty or severe vaginal infection/STD on the vagina. The infection could cause lesions on the outside of the vagina, as well as bruising, which causes it to look blue in color.”

Much discussion ensured about whether the photograph was real or a digital manipulation, and, if the former, whether it really pictured an infection (rather than, say, bruising resulting from rape or some other form of trauma).

Whatever the origins of the photo, “blue waffle disease” is a bit of fiction and not a known symptom or result of any type of STD-related infection. As reported in the Women’s Health Foundation blog, Dr. Amy Whitaker, an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics/Gynecology at the University of Chicago Hospital, said of the widely circulated “blue waffles” image that:

There is no disease known as “blue waffle disease,” in the medical world. There is no disease that causes a blue appearance on the external genitalia. I had never heard of this until you wrote to our section and asked about it. The common belief among medical professionals with whom I have spoken or e-mailed about this is that it is a hoax; the picture and “fake” disease used to lure people into some web site.

The picture itself is disturbing. It is possible that a bluish appearance to external genitalia could be from bruising, which could result from force, most likely from a sexual assault. I can’t say, obviously, if that is the case here, but bruising certainly wouldn’t be bright blue. No STDS cause external bruising. Additionally, there appears to be one or two lesions, which could be an STD of some sort (for example, a herpes lesion), although it is certainly not clear from the picture. It even appears that there might be some sort of laceration on her right labia, a “cut” of sorts, but again it’s unclear. That could also be from force, or it could be an STD that presents with a lesion on the vulva.

On the other hand, the entire thing could be ‘photoshopped,’ and nothing in it represents anything ‘real.’

In any case, this is not the typical appearance of any STD or any condition of the vagina or vulva.

Columbia University’s Go Ask Alice! Health column also notes that “blue waffle disease” is a hoax:

“Blue waffle,” or “blue waffle disease,” is many things, but real is not one of them. It is an urban legend, a myth, a tall tale, a rumor, a hoax, etc. about a fictional sexually transmitted infection (STI). If you do an image search, you’ll find (fake) pictures of blue waffle on the Internet. The blue refers to one of the alleged symptoms, and waffle is slang for vagina. Other supposed symptoms of blue waffle vary depending on the source and so does how it’s spread, all of the details changing over time like a giant game of telephone. One reason the blue waffle myth may have spread so quickly is because of the fear and confusion surrounding STIs and sexual health.

Symptoms associated with the imaginary blue waffle are reminiscent to symptoms of existing conditions or STIs. For example, a red or irritated vagina or vulva, smelly discharge, and itching or burning could all be signs of bacterial vaginosis (or vaginitis). Sores and lesions? Now it sounds more like herpes. Why blue? Perhaps this can be explained by the darker color of the clitoris and inner lips when increased blood flow due to arousal occurs in some women. Or perhaps a darker bluish color could be caused by a yeast infection or chronic irritation of the vulva, known as Lichen simplex.

One common variation on the blue waffle myth is that it is an STI that passes exclusively from females to males and can be caused by improper hygiene. Perhaps this seems somewhat indicative of our society’s tendency to blame, objectify, and vilify women.

By David Mikkelson

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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Is Blue Waffle Disease A Real STI?

Fake photos of blue waffle disease have circulated on the internet. But, the condition is not real.

Christina is a New York City-based writer and commerce editor. She has worked at various publications including InStyle, Shape, Verywell Health, and Health. She also has a RYT-200 certification.

Updated on September 26, 2022
Medically reviewed by

Renita White, MD, is an obstetrician/gynecologist at Georgia Obstetrics and Gynecology in Atlanta, Georgia. Her areas of expertise include fibroids, irregular vaginal bleeding, abnormal pap smears, infertility and menopause.

Woman taking a bath in a white bathtub in a white bathroom

Since its creation in 2010, the notorious “blue waffle disease” photo of a scabbed, infected, blue-tinted labia continues to circulate on the internet. This picture may look convincing, but there is no sexually transmitted infection (STI) called blue waffle disease that turns the vagina blue. Still, unsuspecting people may believe the photo is real and worry they could get the disease.

The bottom line: Blue waffle is not a real STI. Some people may notice that their labia becomes darker during and after puberty, but that’s completely normal.

If your vagina has unusual rashes, sores, discharge, or pain, you could have a real STI or vaginal infection. But it won’t be blue waffle disease.

What Is Blue Waffle Disease?

Blue waffle—”waffle” referring to a slang term for vagina—is a fake STI. The internet hoax claims that the fake STI turns the labia blue and mimics symptoms of real STIs, like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis.

People often claimed the STI could only affect vaginas and also cause bruising and lesions. The photos may look terrifying and convincing, but the condition is not real.

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Not only is blue waffle disease absent from reputable medical texts, periodicals, and websites, it has been debunked by prominent doctors. Dr. Anita Ravi, MD, a family medicine physician based in New Jersey, confirmed that the disease was not real in a 2017 speech posted on the Annals of Internal Medicine website.

“It is a well-known, elaborate internet hoax with somebody who has extensive, beautiful photoshopping skills,” Ravi said in the 2017 presentation.

Dr. Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn at the Center for Obstetrics and Gynecology at Orlando Health in Florida, also confirmed to Health that she has never heard of the disease and that it is not real.

Do Blue Waffle Symptoms Mimic Real Infections?

Some STIs and vaginal infections have similar symptoms to the fictional blue waffle disease. But no STI or vaginal infection can cause a blue-colored labia like in the fake photo.

Herpes Simplex Virus-2, or genital herpes, can cause blistering sores and ulcers that eventually become scabs. A vaginal yeast infection can also cause redness and swelling outside the vagina.

If you’re experiencing discomfort, itching, or any other symptom on or around your vulva or vagina, Dr. Greves advises getting checked out by a healthcare provider. You won’t be diagnosed with blue waffle disease, but tests might show signs of an STI or another condition. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis can also have symptoms similar to vaginal infections, such as abnormal discharge and discomfort.

Should You Get STI Testing?

If something in your genital area doesn’t feel right or you notice abnormal discharge, see your healthcare provider about STI testing.

“If someone is having STI symptoms, regardless of whether they were recently exposed or not, it is important that they see their doctor,” says Dr. Greves. “Sometimes symptoms do not present immediately.”

Most routine STI testing involves taking blood or urine samples. However, depending on the length of the infection, these tests may not always be accurate. To confirm STIs, your healthcare provider may also do a swab test. This involves swabbing the vagina or cervix during a pelvic exam to test the cells or grow bacteria in a lab setting to detect an infection.

Getting STI test results can take anywhere from a few hours to two weeks. The timeframe depends on the type of test and the lab. However, results for swab tests typically take longer than blood or urine testing.

If you are sexually active, there is always a risk of getting an STI. STI testing can help you receive a proper diagnosis and treatment options. Practicing safer sex with barrier methods can also help you reduce your risk of STIs. But, the good news is that you don’t need to worry about the fictitious blue waffle disease.

Sources:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital herpes.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaginal candidiasis.
  4. Garcia MR, Wray AA. Sexually Transmitted Infections. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; July 11, 2022.
  5. Ravi A. Annals on being a doctor story slam – how to treat blue waffle disease. Ann Intern Med. 2017;166(5):SS1. doi.org/10.7326/W17-0027
  6. Workowski KA, Bachmann LH, Chan PA, et al. Sexually Transmitted Infections Treatment Guidelines, 2021. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2021;70(4):1-187. Published 2021 Jul 23. doi:10.15585/mmwr.rr7004a1

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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