Genital Psoriasis: Symptoms, Treatment, And Causes

The skin serves as a barrier for the body, preventing pathogens from entering and causing disease. In addition to being a barrier, the skin also serves an aesthetic purpose.

Healthy skin has a glow and generally features a smooth appearance. In some cases, however, the disease may strike the skin. This can cause several problems, depending on the condition that develops. 

Psoriasis is an unpleasant condition that affects the skin. The condition can cause symptoms in various parts of the body. In some cases, genital involvement has been noted in people with psoriasis. Genital psoriasis can be unpleasant and cause a lack of confidence during sexual activity. 

This post focuses on psoriatic lesions that develop in the genital area. We consider what the condition means, how the lesions look, and the current available treatment options. 

What Is Genital Psoriasis?

Genital psoriasis is a type of psoriasis skin disease that affects the area around the genitals. The disease causes the same symptoms as other types of psoriasis. The patient would experience patches affected by redness and itchiness. The area directly surrounding the genitals are affected by these symptoms. 

It should be noted that genital psoriasis is not a transmittable disease. A person with this condition will not carry it over to another individual. Furthermore, individuals should take note that genital psoriasis is also not a type of STD

The problem behind genital psoriasis is the same as other types of the disease. Skin cells start to grow at a rate that is considerably more rapid compared to normal growth. When this happens, the body cannot get rid of old skin cells fast enough to make way for the new cells. In turn, skin cells start to accumulate on the surface of the skin. The accumulation tends to occur in patches, which leads to flakiness and redness.

Different types of psoriasis may cause lesions in the genital region. Flexural psoriasis, for example, can affect the groin. It causes symptoms to appear in skin folds. Guttate psoriasis is a rarer type, particularly when compared to plaque psoriasis. It causes smaller tear-drop shaped lesions to develop on the skin. 

Individuals with genital psoriasis will often find that symptoms develop in other parts of the body too. The condition can also be present alongside another health problem. One example would be psoriatic arthritis. In this case, psoriasis symptoms tend to appear in areas where joints are affected by arthritis. 

What Does Genital Psoriasis Look Like?

When there are lesions in the genital area, people generally tend to become concerned. Many STDs are known to cause such lesions. Patients should realize what genital psoriasis looks like. This will help the patient differentiate between this skin condition and other types of diseases. 

It is important to note that, in the majority of cases, psoriasis lesions in the genital region will have a slightly different appearance compared to this skin condition on other areas of the body. 

In other psoriasis cases, a patient will generally find that the condition causes patches on the skin to have a scaly texture. When psoriasis affects the genital area, the lesions will usually not appear scaly. This is because people move throughout the day, which causes the scales to rub off. 

The patches that develop in this area will usually have a bright red color. They will have a smoother texture compared to psoriasis on other parts of the body. In most cases, the patches will also appear shiny. The patient may also note tiny blood spots on the skin if they have genital psoriasis. This happens when the scales rub off during movement. 

How Do I Know If I Have It?

Genital psoriasis is often easy to recognize. If a patient notices lesions or other patches on their skin, it is important to examine the area closely. The patient should take a look at the texture, color, and overall size of the lesions. 

A patient may have genital psoriasis if the following characteristics are observed:

  • The legions develop in patches.

  • The patches are smooth and have a shiny appearance.

  • The patches have a bright red color.

Even in this case, it is still crucial that the patient consults with their doctor. Numerous conditions can result in lesions developing in the genital area. Some of these conditions can lead to serious adverse effects. With this in mind, getting an early diagnosis is essential – whether the patient has genital psoriasis or another condition. 

Early intervention for the condition will ensure appropriate treatments are provided before serious complications occur. It also means the condition may be somewhat easier to treat. 

Can I Still Have Sex If I Have Genital Psoriasis?

The appearance of lesions caused by genital psoriasis may be alarming. Some people may consider the lesions a sign of sexually transmittable disease. This is why many individuals are not sure if they should continue having sex when they develop genital psoriasis. 

The first step when lesions appear is to see a doctor. The patient should ensure that it is genital psoriasis and not caused by another condition. Some STDs can cause lesions to develop on the genitals and the surrounding area too. 

Genital psoriasis, and psoriasis as a skin disease in general, is not considered a transmittable disease. The condition is caused by a rapid growth rate of skin cells – not by a virus or bacteria that caused a skin infection. With this in mind, it means the disease will not transfer over to a partner during sexual intercourse. 

While genital psoriasis is not transmittable, it can cause visual implications for the affected person. A lot of people find that they feel uncomfortable having sex when lesions are present in the genital area. It causes a visual disturbance and can also change the texture of the area when touched. 

In these scenarios, sexual side-effects could be experienced. The fact that the lesions cause a man to feel self-conscious, for example, could lead to erectile dysfunction symptoms. The man may also have a low libido, as they do not feel like participating in sex. 

Depending on the psoriasis severity, the symptoms may come and go. When the symptoms develop, it is called a flare-up. If a man feels self-conscious about the lesions, he may want to ensure appropriate treatment is used. During periods where there is not a flare-up, sexual activity with a partner should feel more comfortable. 

What Are The Treatment Options?

One thing that a patient needs to understand is that genital psoriasis often poses a challenge. Each type of psoriasis has a specific range of treatment options that a doctor may consider. For example, a patient with scalp psoriasis may receive a different treatment plan. 

Genital psoriasis patients should also note that an initial treatment provided does not always offer effective results. There are several cases where a patient may need to use multiple treatments before they find a solution that works for them. Treatment becomes even more complex in cases of severe psoriasis

Skin in the genital area tends to be more delicate compared to other regions of the body that are usually affected by psoriasis. With this in mind, lower dose treatments need to be considered with genital psoriasis. 

Steroid Creams For Psoriasis

The patient may be provided with topical corticosteroids. This is a topical cream that is applied to the region affected by psoriasis lesions. Topical steroids can be an effective treatment option but need to be administered in low doses. A high dose of this topical treatment can cause side-effects in the area. 

This will often be the first treatment a patient is offered. It is known that this type of topical therapy yields effective results. Patients should note that the risk of side-effects may be higher with topical steroids in the genital area. This is because of the thin skin. When skin is thin, it causes chemicals in the cream to be absorbed faster. 

The cream will not be used over a long period of time. In patients with chronic plaque psoriasis, the steroid cream may be considered only when there is a flare-up of symptoms. Even with severe plaque psoriasis, a low dose over a short period will still be advised. 

Calcineurin Inhibitor

An ointment is made that is generally referred to as a calcineurin inhibitor. This ointment combines two different products that are usually used when a doctor prescribes treatment for eczema. It has been found that the creams could yield improved symptoms in patients with genital psoriasis too. The two creams combined in this formula include tacrolimus, also known as Protopic, and pimecrolimus, sold under the brand name Elidel. 

Other Treatment Options

While steroids and eczema treatment are commonly used to help with psoriasis in the genital area, there are times where they do not provide effective results in the patient. In such a case, the doctor will look at alternative options. 

A few of the other treatments that may be provided to the patient include:

  • Systemic drugs that focus on addressing psoriasis from the inside. This is most commonly used in more severe cases of psoriasis. 

  • Aczone, or dapsone, is sometimes used in the treatment too. This is a type of antibiotic cream that doctors usually offer patients with acne. It is generally considered a treatment option if other methods have failed to offer results. 

  • Vitamin D creams have also shown potential in the treatment of genital psoriasis. A vitamin D cream can cause skin irritation and other reactions, which is why a very low dose will be used. In cases where the patient experiences sensitivity, a low dose steroid cream may be combined with the vitamin D ointment. 

  • Topical tacrolimus is another treatment generally used for eczema, which may also help individuals with genital psoriasis. A chemical in this cream reduces the defensive mechanisms of the skin. This may help to reduce the rate at which cells grow. In turn, the patient may find that their symptoms start to improve. 

Conclusion

Psoriasis can cause patches of skin to become scaly and red. The condition often affects the trunk, scalp, knees, and elbows. In some patients, however, other parts of the body may also be affected. This can include the genital region. Genital lesions do not always signal psoriasis, but it is a possibility that should not be overlooked. There are treatment options available for psoriasis patients who experience symptoms around the genitals. 

Sources

  1. Acta Dermato-Venerealogica. (2011) Genital psoriasis: A systematic literature review on this hidden skin disease. [online] Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20927490/
  2. Psoriasis: Targets and Therapy. (2018) The impact of genital psoriasis on quality of life: a systematic review. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6118254/ 
  3. Dermatology and Therapy. (2018) Treatment of Genital Psoriasis: A Systematic Review. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6261118/

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