Balanitis and 6 Other Causes of Penis Irritation
Let’s talk penises.
The penis is a sensitive organ that faces quite a bit of potential trouble. It discharges waste and other fluids, expands and contracts wildly, and spends most of its time rubbing against fabric.
It’s no wonder penis irritation is a common affliction.
Of course, it’s not uncommon to experience some occasional penis discomfort—burning, swelling, itching, rashes or other symptoms—but it’s important to correctly identify your particular penis affliction, not only so you select the best possible treatment but also to make sure it’s not something more serious.
Do not hesitate to talk to your doctor about any type of change or irritation you notice in your genital area.
Here is a list of general outlines of some of the more common causes and symptoms of penis irritation:
This condition, more common in men and boys who are uncircumcised, causes the skin of the head of the penis to become inflamed, often painfully so. In geographic areas where men are more likely to be uncircumcised, balanitis can affect up to 1 in 20 males and appear as swelling, pain, itching, redness or a rash, as well as produce a foul-smelling discharge.
Balanitis can be caused by many issues related to cleaning, including:
- Not rinsing soap away thoroughly
- Using scented soaps
- Using soaps that dry the skin
- Using a scented spray on your genitals
Balanitis usually isn’t serious and can be treated with a topical ointment.
This is a common skin rash that afflicts some 31 million Americans every year. Eczema can occur just about anywhere on the body, including the penis, and presents as a red, itchy, flaky rash. Treatment usually includes a topical cream and/or an antihistamine to stop the itching.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a common cause of penis irritation. Acne-like rashes, fierce itching, and painful sores or lesions are all signs you need to see a doctor right away. Discontinue sexual contact with your partner until you have a diagnosis. Left untreated, an STI can develop into a more serious sexually transmitted disease (STD), such as syphilis.
4. Genital psoriasis
Psoriasis is an autoimmune inflammation issue that results in red skin with thick, shiny scaling. Genital psoriasis often presents without the scales and may be brighter red.
It’s not clear what causes psoriasis, or genital psoriasis specifically, but it does run in families. It is not known to be contagious.
The following may aggravate and set off genital psoriasis symptoms:
- Tight clothing
- Coarse toilet paper
- Toiletries and sanitary products
- Friction against your skin, including from sexual activity
There is no known cure for psoriasis, but prescription-strength topical creams can help.
5. Allergic reactions
Switching soaps, lotions, laundry soaps or condom brands can cause a flare-up of penis irritation. Soaps and lotions contain their own particular recipe of fragrances and chemicals, and condoms’ various spermicides and proprietary lubrication can cause irritation.
A little detective work can often eliminate the irritation by methodically removing potentially offending substances.
6. Yeast infection
Penile yeast infection can cause a spotty, itchy rash and, sometimes, a white discharge and burning sensation.
Over-the-counter antifungal medications, such as Lotrimin and Desenex, can often clear up a yeast infection. Good hygiene, wearing a condom and avoiding sex with anyone who is currently infected are all great preventive measures.
7. Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Like yeast infections, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more common in women, but a buildup of bacteria in the urinary tract of either sex can cause a UTI.
Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include:
- Trouble urinating
- Frequent need to urinate
- Slight burning before or after urinating
- Lower abdominal pain
- Blood in urine
If you experience any of the above symptoms, make an appointment to see a doctor right away. An untreated UTI can cause a problem with your kidneys, and when that happens, additional symptoms may include:
- Back and side pain that doesn’t go away
- Chills and fever
- Vomiting and nausea
Treatments for UTIs include antibiotics, and you should also drink plenty of fluids. While some lab studies on rats have shown cranberry juice can reduce bacteria count in the bladder, there’s no robust proof that drinking it during a urinary tract infection speeds recovery.
Clearly, many sources can irritate a penis and present themselves in many different ways. By narrowing down the culprits of your discomfort, you’ll have a better chance of getting through it quicker.