Penis Rash: What Could Trigger This Penile Skin Problem?

Did you spot a rash on your penis? You’ll be glad to know that in most cases, that rash on the penis is nothing to worry about. 

Still, you should see a urologist. That’s because a rash can go away on its own, or linger for a very long time.

To get your penile health back on track, you need all the help you can get.

Here, we will talk about what’s causing the skin problems and how to recognize the problem. That way, you will figure out when is the right time to see a specialist. 

What is a Penile Rash?

A penis rash is the presence of sores or spots on the penis, which could also affect other areas of the genitals or groin. An inflammatory condition of the penis can develop at any age as pink splotch, puffy welt, or a small bump. 

According to experts, some inflammatory skin conditions that can lead to penile rash are relatively common. For example, the most common inflammatory lesions are those of the:

  • glans penis (balanitis)

  • foreskin (posthitis)

  • both (balanoposthitis) 

They can hurt and come with penile bleeding among other complications. Other contributors to the rash may include medication usage, contact dermatitis, genital psoriasis, or a sexually transmitted disease (STD). 

To understand penis rash, it’s important to take a look at each of the more widespread inflammatory skin conditions.

Causes

Balanitis

Balanitis is an inflammation of the penis head, which affects roughly 3% to 11% of men in their lifetime. When dead skin cells sweat and bacteria keep piling up, that’s when the glans penis begins to swell, often causing discomfort and pain.

  • Symptoms: Pain and inflammation on the head of the penis. Paired with a bad smell, red patches, itching below the foreskin, and smegma (white discharge) below the foreskin.

  • Causes: Poor hygiene, diabetes, STD, and heightened sensitivity to chemical irritants. As well as a yeast infection, scabies, skin condition that causes dry skin or itchy skin (eczema or psoriasis), and reactive arthritis.

Posthitis

Prepuce inflammation also known as posthitis is not a serious cause for concern. Yet, adequate treatment may be necessary. The swelling can cause pain or trigger discomfort. 

  • Causes: fungal infection (like jock itch), bacterial infection, lack of proper hygiene, skin conditions, or allergies. 

Balanoposthitis

Balanoposthitis affects both the foreskin and the glans of the penis, affecting about 6% of uncircumcised males. This penis irritation can only happen in uncircumcised individuals. 

  • Symptoms: Irritation, itching, dry skin, shiny or discolored skin, skin lesions or skin erosion, bad smell, tight foreskin, unusual discharge, etc. 

  • Causes: Overgrowth of a yeast or bacterial infection. The infection can occur from gonorrhea, chlamydia, secondary syphilis, primary syphilis, etc. The infection can also happen due to inadequate cleansing or extreme effort to maintain cleanliness. 

Medication Usage

Some medicines can cause a rash. Products like Tylenol, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory medication can lead to a penis problem, like fixed drug eruption. 

It could either be a side effect of the medication or an allergic reaction. The eruption affects the genitals, making them appear swollen or inflamed. 

They can also develop a red plaque with a gray spot in the center. It’s not uncommon for drug rash to lead to dark spots or blisters after the inflammation dissipates. 

The severity of the reaction and impact of the rash on the skin of the penis varies based on the medication you’ve been taking. 

Contact Dermatitis

Substances from the outside, whether obtained from sexual or non-sexual contact, can irritate the penis skin. A genital rash or an outbreak typically occurs a couple of minutes post-contact. Although you can’t spread it to a sexual partner, the itchy rash can remain for 1 month. 

If you recently developed a penis rash right after buying a new product, then consider using a different one until the symptoms subside. If any chemicals irritate the skin and lead to penile itching, then avoid using them completely. 

  • Symptoms: raised bump, itchy penis, discolored skin, and skin dryness. 

  • Causes: cologne, soap, spermicide, or some detergents.

Genital Psoriasis

About 63% of adults with psoriasis experience psoriatic lesions in the genital area at least once in their life. When affected by inverse psoriasis, the prevalence of genital psoriasis skyrockets by around 79%. In just 2% to 5% of patients with psoriasis, lesions only develop in their genital region. 

With genital psoriasis, the penis develops shiny deep red patches on the tip of the organ or on the shaft. Since the affected area of the skin is constantly covered, the rash remains moist. 

  • Symptoms: smooth red skin (not scaly), severe itching, aches, discomfort, splitting of the skin. 

  • Causes: previous infection, injured penis skin, stress, smoking, high alcohol intake, etc.

Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)

When having intercourse with someone with an STD, the penis can also get infected. A vaginal yeast infection is not an STD, nor is it contagious. STDs that can cause a rash on the penile area, infection, and irritation are the following:

  • Genital herpes – Genital herpes is known for causing sores, aches, and itching. Those who have genital herpes might not develop obvious symptoms. But they can still be contagious even without the visible sores. Adequate medication can curb the infection, although there isn’t a cure available for this kind of herpes. 

  • Scabies – Scabies are small mites that make their way below the skin and lay eggs. They can lead to a rash of the penile area. The scabies itching worsens in the middle of the night. However, scratching the scabies affected area can lead to an infection. 

  • Syphilis – Having direct contact with a syphilis sore during intercourse can lead to a rash of the penile area. The skin can develop pain. Without treatment, syphilis could lead to potential health complications. 

Other Factors

Lichen planus, which is non-infectious, can cause a rash on a number of areas of the body. That includes the nails, mouth, legs, trunk, arms, penile region, vagina, and vulva. It leads to ring-shaped patches on the glans (tip of the penis) and penile papules (bumps) that are shiny and flat.

Molluscum contagiosum is a skin rash triggered by a virus. This is one of those penile conditions that need treatment, usually topical therapy. Another issue could be pubic lice. To treat the penile area properly, like the glans, pearly penile papules, or any other penile problem, like erectile dysfunction, it’s best to consult with a specialist. 

When to Contact a Specialist?

If you suspect you have herpes, a rash that looks like blisters, or an odd penile smell, then make sure to ask for treatment as soon as possible. Developing an irritation or itching on the penis can be very uncomfortable to deal with. 

Ideally, you should get regularly tested for STDs, particularly if you have unprotected sex with multiple sex partners. 

What you can do on your part to prevent rashes is to try and stop the itch. Scratching only makes the rash worse. Don’t use any skin irritants, like skin creams directly on the affected area. At least for the time being. 

Also, let the skin air-dry for a couple of minutes before you put on a new pair of underwear. Daily washing and checking for rashes can help spot the infection before it becomes a serious problem, whether from herpes, genital wart, nappy rash, or anything else. 

Conclusion

The penile region is vulnerable to many health issues, like a urinary tract infection, papule, rash, and so on. 

If you recognize the symptoms of any of the penile issues listed here, then talk to a specialist. They can advise you on the proper course of action to take. 

Next Up

penis health tips

Learn 6 Ways To Keep Your Penis Healthy.

Sources

  1. Morris BJ, Krieger JN. Penile Inflammatory Skin Disorders and the Preventive Role of Circumcision. Int J Prev Med. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5439293/
  2. Wray AA, Velasquez J, Khetarpal S. Balanitis. [Updated 2021 Aug 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537143/
  3. Beck KM, Yang EJ, Sanchez IM, Liao W. Treatment of Genital Psoriasis: A Systematic Review. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6261118/
Alternative Text

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Founder of Zayed MD, Dr. Ahmed believes in making the knowledge as accessible as possible to patients. He had his work featured in reputable publications such as The Huffington Post. Other than his passion for writing, Dr. Ahmed spends​ his time outside the hospital at the gym or with a good book.

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