Rashes on the penis can be caused by a wide variety of conditions, diseases, and health issues. There’s a range of bacteria, parasites, and viruses that can cause a rash in the genital area.
Poor hygiene, scented soaps, and body lotions can also cause rashes. Finally, autoimmune diseases and various irritants and allergens can be the cause of a rash on penis. What to do if you see a rash in your genital area? Your safest bet is to contact your doctor as soon as possible.
In a nutshell, Balanitis is an inflammation of the head and/or the foreskin of the penis. It manifests in the form of red spots in said areas. Swelling, discharge, pain, and itch are among the common symptoms. Improper hygiene, perfumed soap (body wash), various bacteria, and yeast are the most common causes. Roughly 5% of all men experience this type of skin irritation.
The therapy largely depends on the cause of the inflammation. If it’s bacterial, antibiotics would be appropriate. Or an antifungal if it’s caused by fungi. Regardless of the cause, you should stop using scented soaps and lotions.
Molluscum Contagiosum is a viral infection, caused by the virus of the same name. It is transmitted through direct contact with an infected individual or contaminated object. The common symptoms include colorless and painless bumps on the penis. The rash can last anywhere between two months and four years.
If you have a strong immune system, the rash will go away on its own without any treatment. The most common treatments for molluscum contagiosum include cryotherapy (freezing of the bumps), curettage (piercing and scraping of the bumps), laser therapy (laser removal), and topical therapy (peeling off the bumps with topical creams).
When it appears in the genital area, ringworm is known as tinea cruris (jock itch). It is a fungal infection that appears in the form of darkened skin on the inner thighs and near the scrotum. Among the common symptoms are skin redness, itching, burning, and flaking. Usually, it can worsen with physical activity.
Jock itch is commonly treated with over-the-counter topical antifungal creams. In addition, you should change your clothes and underwear daily, wash and dry the affected area with extra care, and treat all other fungal infections (in case you have them).
Parasites can also cause penis rash. Pubic lice are among the common causes of such rashes. These insects lay their eggs in the genital area and feed on blood. They are usually transmitted via sexual intercourse. The rash caused by pubic lice is pale blue in color. Other symptoms include fever, low energy, and irritability.
The first line of defense against the pubic lice is topical creams. If they don’t do the job, you might need prescription medications.
Scabies is among the most common rash-causing parasites. They are commonly transferred from one person to another via sexual intercourse. The mites that cause scabies burrow into the skin, causing intensely itchy red rashes.
Topical creams, lotions, and ointments are the common ways to treat scabies. For cases of severe infestation, antihistamines, steroid creams, and antibiotics might be prescribed. Crusted scabies that spread across the body would require even more aggressive treatments.
Along with pubic lice, body lice can also cause a genital rash. They are slightly bigger than their pubic counterparts, though they feed on blood too. Body lice are mostly contracted through sharing clothes and bedding and direct contact with an infected person. Common symptoms include rashes, intense itching, red bumps, and darkened skin.
The first step to getting rid of body lice is to improve personal hygiene and change clothing, underwear, and bedding regularly. Also, doctors may prescribe pediculicides or medications formulated to kill lice.
Genital warts are one of the most common STDs. They are caused by certain strains of the HPV (human papillomavirus) and appear in the shape of soft growths. Genital warts can affect the scrotum, penis, thighs, groin, and area around or inside the anus. The virus can’t be cured, but the warts can be treated.
Regular OTC topical creams can’t remove genital warts, so specially formulated topical wart treatments have to be used. Additionally, electrocautery (burning the warts with electricity), cryosurgery (freezing), interferon injections, laser therapy, and excisions (cutting the warts) are the frequently used treatments.
Genital herpes is an STD caused by two strains of the herpes simplex virus. HSV-1 is commonly associated with cold sores, while HSV-2 causes herpes. Both viruses reside in semen, vaginal secretions, and saliva. The most common symptoms of genital herpes include blisters on the buttocks, scrotum, or penis. They may be accompanied by itching, tingling, ulcers, and oozing fluids. Headaches, fever, and body aches are not uncommon either.
At the moment, there is no cure for HSV. However, the outbreaks can be contained. Antiviral drugs are the most common method for combatting the outbreaks. High level of personal hygiene is required to speed up the process and reduce the chances of subsequent outbreaks.
Unlike genital warts and herpes, syphilis is a bacterial infection. It is caused by the Treponema pallidum bacteria. The infestation starts out as painless sores (primary syphilis). Aside from the penis, it can appear around the rectum and inside the mouth. It can go unnoticed for a long time and transmits through direct contact, shared clothing, and even toilet.
Secondary syphilis is characterized by non-itchy rashes. They are commonly located on the soles and palms, but can show up anywhere. Common symptoms include fatigue, fever, headaches, weight loss, hair loss, swollen lymph nodes, and aching joints.
When the rashes subside, syphilis enters the latent/dormant stage. It can stay in this stage for years or even decades.
Tertiary syphilis is the last stage and potentially life-threatening. It can cause memory loss, destruction of bone and soft tissue, deafness, heart disease, neurosyphilis, blindness, stroke, and meningitis.
The importance of an early diagnosis can’t be overstated in the case of syphilis. As for treatment, the first and second stages can easily be cured with penicillin. In the tertiary stage, the bacteria can be killed but the damage done can’t be reversed. During the treatment, it is important to avoid sexual contact until all signs of the disease have been eliminated.
Other Common Causes
Also, a penis rash can be caused by autoimmune diseases and allergies. Here’s a word or two about some of the most common.
- Psoriasis. This is an autoimmune disease which causes an itchy, scaly rash that’s reddish/pink in color. In the genital area, it can produce sores. Psoriasis is not contagious and can be treated with topical, systemic (retinoids, biologics, cyclosporine, methotrexate), and UV light treatments.
- Contact dermatitis. A quite common type of rash, it can happen when an allergen or irritant comes in contact with the skin. Dry and scaly skin, oozing blisters, burning, itching, swelling, and hives are among the common symptoms. Usually, topical creams and clean warm water are used to treat contact dermatitis. It is not contagious and mostly harmless. Contact dermatitis tends to subside on its own once the irritant and/or allergen is removed.
A most unsettling thing it is indeed to see a rash on penis. What to do when it happens? The best thing to do in such a situation is to stay calm and make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible. Before that, taking steps to improve your personal hygiene is your best bet.