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Causes of Penis Pain

Penis pain can be caused by injuries, skin infections or irritation, a urinary tract infection, prostatitis, or sexually transmitted infections. Be sure to get immediate medical care for a severe injury to your groin, or an erection that does not go away within 4 hours.
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Last updated October 26, 2021

Penis pain questionnaire

Answer our clinicians’ questions to learn if your pain is serious and get a UTI treatment prescription for $25 if necessary.

Penile Pain questionnaire

Answer our clinicians’ questions to learn if your pain is serious and get a UTI treatment prescription for $25 if necessary.

Get penile pain care now

Why does your penis hurt?

Penis pain is very common, but it can be difficult to talk about. It can be caused by injuries, skin infections or irritation, or foreskin issues in uncircumcised boys and men.

The pain can also be internal, like from a urinary tract infection or a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Or pain can be from a fracture to the internal structures of the penis, or by a loss of blood flow to the penis.

To get the correct diagnosis, pay attention to the details of the pain.

  • When did it start?
  • Did the pain come on suddenly or has it slowly gotten worse?
  • Is the pain sharp, dull, throbbing, or burning?
  • Is it located at the base, middle, tip, just beneath the skin of the shaft, or throughout?
  • Did it happen after a specific event, like getting hit while playing a sport or during intercourse?
  • Is there any swelling or bruising?

Most causes of penile pain can be easily treated with medication. If you have a severe injury to your groin, or an erection that does not go away within 4 hours, get immediate medical care.

Causes

1. Urinary tract infection

Symptoms

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is when a bacteria gets into your urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, bladder, and urethra. If not treated, the infection can get worse and spread.

UTIs are usually treated with antibiotics. Drinking plenty of water and taking cranberry supplements can help your symptoms.

Pro Tip

It is important to tell your doctor about the severity of the pain and if there are any external changes to the penis. People think it is embarrassing to seek medical attention or discuss these types of issues with healthcare providers. But you only get one penis, so take care of it. —Dr. Jason Chandrapal

2. Sexually transmitted infection

Symptoms

  • Burning, tingling, or stinging pain when urinating
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Constantly having the urge to go to the bathroom, even right after you just went
  • Feeling like the bladder isn’t completely empty
  • Pink (blood-tinged) urine
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • Ulcers (open sores) on the penis

A sexually transmitted infection (STI) (also known as sexually transmitted disease or STD) is an infection that spreads during sexual intercourse. STIs are usually caused by an infection from chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, or the herpes simplex virus.

Your doctor will diagnose you by asking questions, examining you, and with a urine sample.

Most STIs are treated with antibiotics, though herpes is a virus and is treated with antiviral medications. Any sexual partners will also need to be told about the diagnosis because they are likely to have the infection and will need to be treated.

3. Penile irritation

Symptoms

Irritation of the penis is common. It can be from a number of causes, including cleaning with a new kind of soap, cleaning too much or not enough, or chafing.

If you are not circumcised, you may have balanitis, an inflammation at the head of the penis. It is often from poor foreskin hygiene. While irritating, it should not be extremely painful. Pain could mean it’s something more serious like an infection.

Try to avoid irritants by changing soaps or laundry detergent. Routinely clean the foreskin. You may want to use a topical ointment on the skin, such as an over-the-counter antihistamine or steroid cream.

Penile Pain questionnaire

Answer our clinicians’ questions to learn if your pain is serious and get a UTI treatment prescription for $25 if necessary.

Get penile pain care now

4. Paraphimosis

Symptoms

  • Retracted foreskin
  • Painful swelling just beyond the retracted foreskin
  • When extreme, the head of the penis may be blue or black

Paraphimosis is when retracted foreskin in an uncircumcised man gets stuck and cannot return to its normal position. Often this happens after having a urinary catheter, like during a hospital procedure. This can be serious as it can stop the blood flow to the foreskin or head of the penis.

Treatment consists of manually pulling the foreskin back over the head of the penis. It can be painful and you may be given pain medication before the procedure. If this can’t be done, urgent surgery may be needed.

5. Prostatitis

Symptoms

Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland. The prostate is between the bladder and penis and makes the fluid that contains semen. Prostatitis can be sudden or chronic.

Sudden (acute) prostatitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection of the prostate. Bacteria can get into the prostate through a urinary tract infection (UTI) or an STD like gonorrhea or chlamydia.

You can also get an Infection after a medical procedure, like if a urinary catheter was inserted.

Prostatitis can also be caused by inflammation from a pelvic injury (from trauma or bicycling), an enlarged prostate, or a recent prostate biopsy.

It’s important to get it treated. When not treated, prostatitis can lead to bacteremia of the blood ("blood poisoning") or a prostatic abscess. Infections are treated with antibiotics.

Chronic prostatitis is when the prostate gland becomes inflamed over time. Men usually have symptoms for at least 3 months. Sometimes this inflammation is caused by bacteria (chronic bacterial prostatitis), but it can also be from something else, like chronic nonbacterial prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome.

Chronic prostatitis is difficult to completely cure. Treatment focuses on reducing symptoms and improving quality of life. This includes healthy lifestyle changes (such as dietary changes, exercise, and quitting smoking), antibiotics, medications for pain, acupuncture, physical therapy, and talk therapy to help cope with symptoms.

Pro Tip

If you suffer erectile dysfunction following a procedure or surgery for penile pain, all is not lost! Your sexual health is important. There are many treatments to help you regain erectile function. —Dr. Chandrapal

6. Priapism

Symptoms

  • Erection lasting at least 4 hours
  • Penile pain
  • The tip of the penis is soft but the shaft is hard

Priapism is when an erection lasts at least 4 hours. During an erection, the blood flow into the penis is greater than the blood flow out of the penis. After the erection, the blood flow returns to normal. In priapism, the erection does not go away.

Priapism can be caused by sickle cell anemia or medications. Sometimes injectable medications to help with erectile dysfunction that last too long.

Because priapism deprives the penis of oxygen, it may cause permanent erectile dysfunction. See a doctor immediately.

Priapism is usually treated with a procedure that releases the pressure within the penis.

A doctor may inject into the penis a medication, such as phenylephrine, that constricts blood vessels, allowing blood to flow out. Or they may remove blood from the penis with a needle. Sometimes, both procedures are done. If these procedures don’t stop the erection, then you may need surgery.

7. Penile fracture

Symptoms

  • Penile pain
  • Swollen penis
  • Bruising in the penis and groin area
  • Hearing a snap or pop followed by loss of an erection

A penile fracture is also known as broken penis. It can happen when there’s trauma or an impact to an erect penis. Even though the penis doesn’t have a bone, there's a structure in the penis, called the tunica albuginea, that fills with blood during an erection.

Because it becomes so stiff when aroused, the tunica albuginea can tear if it is bent or buckles while filled with blood. Usually this is because of bending during intercourse from a missed thrust.

Sometimes the fracture is severe enough that you'll hear a "popping" sound and immediately lose the erection and then notice swelling. If this happens, go to the ER. You will probably need surgery to repair the torn tunica albuginea. If not treated, it can cause permanent erectile dysfunction.

Penile Pain questionnaire

Answer our clinicians’ questions to learn if your pain is serious and get a UTI treatment prescription for $25 if necessary.

Get penile pain care now

8. Lichen sclerosus

Symptoms

  • White, shiny, and scar-like patches on the genital or anal area
  • Patches are itchy and often painful
  • Redness and bruising surrounding the white area
  • Pain while urinating

Lichen sclerosus is a chronic skin condition that causes patches of white, wrinkly, thin skin. It is most commonly in the anus or genital regions. These patches are often described as being like "cigarette paper." Usually, people also have bruising, bleeding, inflammation, itching, and pain.

Lichen sclerosus will slowly get worse over time. It can permanently damage skin if you don’t treat it. On an uncircumcised penis, the patches can tighten the foreskin.

Treatment includes oral and topical (applied to the skin) medications, phototherapy (with ultraviolet light), and circumcision to remove damaged foreskin.

Other possible causes

A number of conditions may also cause penis pain, though these are either rare or penis pain is not usually the main symptom. They include insect bites, human bites during sexual activity, injury from a catheter, skin infections, or impact from a car crash or getting hit by an object.

Penile pain during intercourse can be a source of sexual dysfunction. Kidney stones may also cause referred pain—the pain is felt in the penis but that is not where it is coming from.

When to call the doctor

If your pain or irritation lasts more than a few hours, call your doctor. If you have penile pain during intercourse, you may need to be evaluated by a specialist such as a urologist.

Dr. Rx

If you are worried about your penis pain, then I am worried about it. Just help me understand why. It will remain confidential. We will not judge you for being honest. In fact, the more information you can tell us, the better we can help you. —Dr. Chandrapal

Should I go to the ER for penis pain?

Go to the ER if you have any of these signs, which could mean it’s a more serious problem.

  • A painful erection that lasts for more than 4 hours
  • Extreme difficulty urinating
  • Received a hard hit to your groin, either from an accident or sports injury
  • A fracture of your penis, which looks like swelling. Sometimes, there’s a “popping” sound right before you lose your erection
  • Unable to retract foreskin

Treatments

At-home care

  • Ice packs can help relieve pain for minor injuries
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers can help relieve pain for minor injuries
  • Over-the-counter topical ointments applied to the skin can reduce symptoms of itching and redness
  • Avoid irritating soaps and detergents
  • Try to put the foreskin back in the normal position

Other treatment options

  • Prescription antibiotics or topical ointments
  • Depending on the cause and injury, surgery may be needed

Penile Pain questionnaire

Answer our clinicians’ questions to learn if your pain is serious and get a UTI treatment prescription for $25 if necessary.

Get penile pain care now

Hear what 1 other is saying
Penis painPosted March 28, 2020 by J.
Make, age 27. Last night my wife and I were having sex. She was on top and moving in a forward and backward motion while laying flat on top of me. During this, the base of my penis popped. I was able to continue having sex with an erection and even able to ejaculate. The next morning my penis was burning, which I’m thinking it’s a simple UTI. There was no blood in my urine when I peed, but continual burning. Later on this morning my wife and I were able to have sex again with a normal result. I took an Aso for UTI symptoms, which usually subsides the burning by the end of the day. Well, here I am now with burning still happening. I have constant discomfort and a mild pain in my testicles along with my lower abdomen, more specifically the base above where my shaft begins. Trying to figure out if I just have a severe UTI or if I have ruptured something. There is no swelling or bruising and no blood in my urine. Just the burning at the top of my penis and it also feels like I’ve been punched in the balls.
Dr. Chandrapal is the current Interprofessional Advanced Clinical Simulation Fellow at the VA medical center in Durham, NC. Prior to his current position he was a urology resident at Duke University. Originally from Houston, TX he went to undergrad at the University of Texas in Austin, followed by a masters degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, and medical schoo...
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