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Reasons Your Penis May Be Itchy & How to Find Relief

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Penis irritation and itchiness could look like a rash, red bumps, or blisters on the penis. An itchy penis is most commonly caused by skin infections, chemicals used in hygiene products, or a symptom of a sexually transmitted disease. Read below for more information on related symptoms, other causes, and treatment options.

6 most common causes

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Scabies
Urinary Tract Infection
Lichen Sclerosus
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Genital warts
Illustration of a doctor beside a bedridden patient.
Jock itch (tinea cruris)
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Penile irritation

Penis itch quiz

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Symptoms of genital itching in men

Itching of the genital area can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable condition. Fortunately, most cases of penile itching are benign and treatable.

Common accompanying symptoms of penile itch

If you're experiencing penile itching, it's likely to also experience:

Causes of an itchy penis

Itching is the result of inflammation and is commonly due to rashes from infections, dermatologic skin conditions, and environmental exposures. Many of these rashes are due to sexually transmitted infections, but there are also conditions that are not sexually transmitted. The following details may help you better understand your symptoms and if and when you need to see a physician.

Sexually transmitted causes

Causes of an itchy penis related to sexually transmitted infections include the following.

  • Bacterial: Many types of outside bacteria can enter the body easily via the urinary tract, including sexually transmitted bacteria such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. Bacterial infections are often the main cause of penile itching and associated symptoms.
  • Viral: Sexually transmitted viral infections, such as herpes, can cause penile itching as well as many associated symptoms such as blistering and painful penis bumps. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a viral infection and results in itchy genital warts.
  • Other: Organisms such as lice and mites that like to invade dark areas of moisture (the genital area) can also cause intense symptoms of itching. Such organisms require direct skin contact with another infected person and, as a result, can be transmitted during unprotected sexual intercourse.

Non-sexually transmitted causes

Penis itch may occur due to non-sexually transmitted causes, such as the following.

  • Dermatologic: Dermatologic causes involve any condition involving the skin, nails, and hair. Many non-sexually transmitted bacteria and fungi can infect the skin and cause itchy rashes. Fungal infections affect the skin and can cause rashes that result in intense itching and discomfort. Candida fungi are common on the skin and can overgrow in the genital area, causing itching.
  • Irritation: Scented soaps, lotions, toiletries, and other body products can irritate the genital tissue and cause itchy, dry skin.
  • Environmental: Keep in mind that not all causes of penile itching are related to a medical condition. Environmental exposures such as sweat, poor hygiene, and even uncomfortable underwear can irritate the penis and cause symptoms.

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Penis itch quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your itch.

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Urinary tract infection

A urinary tract infection, or UTI, can involve any or all parts of the urinary system but most often affects the bladder and urethra.

Bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract – especially Escherichia coli (E. coli) – are the most common cause of UTIs. These bacteria spread from the anus to the urethra. Sexual activity can do this, but a UTI is not considered a sexually transmitted disease.

Women are more at risk for UTI than men. Due to female anatomy, the urethral opening is a short distance from the anus. Anyone who uses catheters to urinate is also prone to UTIs.

Common symptoms of less-serious UTIs include lower abdominal discomfort and pressure; burning or discomfort on urination; and cloudy or discolored urine.

Left untreated, the infection could spread to the kidneys and cause a medical emergency.

Diagnosis is made by having the patient describe the symptoms and by testing a urine sample for bacteria.

UTIs are caused by bacteria and so can be treated with antibiotics.

Prevention involves good hygiene and drinking plenty of water.

Scabies

Scabies is a rash caused by the microscopic human itch mite. It burrows into the top layer of skin to feed and causes severe itching and irritation.

The mite spreads through direct contact or through infested bedding or furniture. It can infect anyone, though most susceptible are:

  • Children.
  • Sexually active young adults.
  • Anyone with a weakened immune system.
  • Patients in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Symptoms include intense itching, especially at night, and a rash of tiny red bumps. Scratching may cause the rash to form sores, scales, or crusts. The rash most often forms between the fingers, in the folds of the wrists and elbows, and any place normally covered by clothing.

It is important to get treatment because the scratching can cause an infection in the skin. In children, mites can cover nearly the entire body.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and skin test.

Treatment involves a prescription for skin cream. Everyone who has come into contact with the affected person must be treated, even if they show no symptoms.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: vaginal itch or burning, vulvovaginal redness, feeling itchy or tingling all over, butt itch, elbow itch

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Penile irritation

Irritation of the penis is common, and can come from a number of benign causes. Common causes include cleaning with a new kind of soap, cleaning too much, or chaffing.

You should only clean your penis very lightly with a damp cloth. Do not use soap or scrub very hard. You should not wear tight underwear or pants until symptoms resolve. Petroleum jelly can help with irritation, but avoid lotions or cremes, as the perfumes and other chemicals in them can worsen irritation.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: penis itch, penile redness

Symptoms that never occur with penile irritation: fever, painful urination, testicle pain

Urgency: Self-treatment

Lichen sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus is a rare skin condition that can occur on any part of the body but usually affects the vulva, penis, and anus.

The cause is unknown. It may be an autoimmune disease linked to a hormone imbalance and may start with skin that was previously damaged.

Lichen sclerosus is not contagious and is not considered an STD (sexually transmitted disease.)

Most susceptible are children; women after menopause; and uncircumcised men.

Symptoms include thin, fragile skin with patches of white. There may be pain and severe itching, sometimes with bruising, bleeding, and ulceration.

It is important to seek treatment from a medical provider, because lichen sclerosus has been associated with skin cancer. It can also make sexual intercourse very painful for both men and women.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and skin biopsy.

In children, symptoms often improve at puberty. For mild cases in adults, no treatment is necessary. But if the condition interferes with quality of life, corticosteroid creams can be tried. In some cases, circumcision is recommended for male patients.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: vaginal itch or burning, vaginal pain, painful sex, dry skin on the outside of the vagina, painful urination

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Penis itch quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your itch.

Take penis itch quiz

Jock itch (tinea cruris)

Tinea cruris is a common fungal infection of the skin in the groin area. It can cause ring-shaped redness, and sometimes itching or pain.

Over-the-counter antifungal ointments should be enough to clear up the infection. Apply directly to the rash and the surrounding skin. Try to keep the area as dry as possible.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: groin redness, groin itch, scabbed area of the groin, rash, itchy rash

Symptoms that always occur with jock itch (tinea cruris): groin redness

Urgency: Self-treatment

Genital warts

Genital warts are one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. It is caused by infection by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). While it cannot be cured, treatment may help.

Genital warts often resolve on their own within a few weeks, but you should see a physician to determine the best course of action. Some topical treatments are effective, while other warts require surgery, depending on the size and location.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: small groin lump, skin-colored groin bump, marble sized groin lump, painless groin lump, scaly groin bump

Symptoms that always occur with genital warts: scaly groin bump

Urgency: Primary care doctor

How and when to get treated for an itchy penis

When to see a doctor

See a physician for a penis itch that continues or worsens. To better understand the cause, your physician may complete the following.

  • Test your urine to see if you have an infection
  • Swab the penis: This swab collects skin cells and can determine if bacteria, yeast, or other organisms are causing inflammation.
  • Prescribe antibiotics: Take the antibiotics as instructed.
  • Prescribe topical steroid cream: If your itching is due to a dermatologic condition, your doctor may prescribe a topical steroid cream to reduce the inflammation and skin changes.
  • Prescribe anti-fungal medication or cream: Similar to antibiotics that treat bacteria, antifungals treat fungal causes of penis itch.

Prevention

Keep the following practices in mind.

  • Use mild hygiene products: Limit the use of any scented bath and body products to reduce your risk of irritation.
  • Use lubrication and condoms during sexual activity: These measures protect you from irritation and sexually transmitted infections.
  • Wear breathable clothing around the genital area: Such as cotton or bamboo. Maintain proper hygiene to keep your genital area clean.

When it is an emergency

Seek immediate medical care if you experience the following.

  • You notice drainage or discharge from your penis
  • You have a fever
  • You have back pain: Or pain in your side (flank pain)

Questions your doctor may ask about penis itch

  • Do you notice anything going on with your penis?
  • Do you feel pain when you urinate?
  • Do you notice anything going on with your testicles or scrotum?
  • Have you noticed any changes in the color of your urine recently?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

Hear what 1 other is saying
Itchy penisPosted December 16, 2019 by s.
Male, age 21. About a week ago, I started feeling my penis itching me. Day by day it was itching me but not all the time. It itches mostly at night or when I dress to go out. Now, after seven days, I itched my penis at midnight. I woke up to discover two little bumps on my penis. Please help me out. What can I do?
Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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