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Swollen Penis Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

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Understand your swollen penis symptoms, including 2 causes & common questions.

3 most common causes

Urinary Tract Infection
Nephrotic Syndrome
Illustration of a doctor beside a bedridden patient.
Penis fracture

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Symptoms of a swollen penis

A normally functioning penis is important for urination, sexual activity, and fertility. Swelling of the penis can interfere with these functions and should be addressed. The size of the penis is impacted by drainage of lymphatic fluid and blood. Swelling may be a sign that drainage of one of these substances is not occurring as it should. The skin of the penis can also become swollen.

Characteristics

Symptoms that can be associated with a swollen penis depending on the underlying cause include:

  • Bruising
  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Scrotal swelling
  • Leg swelling
  • Itching
  • Penile discharge
  • Pain after sex
  • Thickened skin
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Sudden loss of an erection

Causes of a swollen penis

Causes of a swollen penis are detailed in order from most to least common below. This swelling is likely due to excess fluid, injury, infection or skin conditions.

Excess fluid

Causes related to excess fluid in the penis may include the following.

  • Prolonged erection: In the conditionpriapism, the penis becomes erect without sexual stimulation and stays that way for hours at a time.The erection is typically painful. It is normal for blood to rush into the penis and cause an erection during sexual arousal, but priapism occurs when the extra blood becomes trapped in the penis. This can be a medical emergency.
  • Other local causesof excess fluid: If the foreskin is rolled back and becomes trapped, it forms a tight band preventing normal drainage of blood, resulting in swelling of the tip of the penis. Swelling can also occur when lymphatic fluid is trapped in the penis due to a congenital or acquired abnormality of the local drainage system.
  • Whole body fluid overload: Medical conditions that cause excess fluid throughout the entire body (edema), such as heart or kidney failure, can lead to swelling of the penis and scrotum.

Injury

An injury to the penis may lead to swelling, such as those below.

  • Fracture: An injury to an erect penis can rupture one of the chambers that normally fills up with blood to create an erection. A penis fracture leads to pain, bruising, swelling, and loss of the erection.
  • Friction: Swelling and discomfort of the penis after penetrative sexual intercourse, without other symptoms, may occur due to friction.

Infection

Swelling of the penis may be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. Other symptoms will be present, such as sores, redness, itching, or penile discharge. A swollen penis can also occur due to infections that are not transmitted sexually.

Skin conditions

Skin disorders can cause inflammation and swelling at the head of the penis. These include psoriasis and contact dermatitis, which can occur after use of latex condoms if you have a latex allergy. Redness and itchiness may also be present.

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

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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.

Penis fracture

A penile fracture, also known as broken penis, occurs when there is traumatic injury to the penis.

You should go to the emergency room as a penile fracture is a urologic emergency and often requires surgical treatment.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: penis pain, penis injury, swollen penis, penis bruise

Symptoms that always occur with penis fracture: penis pain, penis injury

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Nephrotic syndrome

Nephrotic syndrome is a symptom of damage from other disease, not a disease in itself. This damage prevents proper filtering of the blood. Protein which should remain in the blood plasma instead leaks out into the urine.

The loss of normal protein in the blood causes swelling, especially in the legs and around the eyes, and it may spread to other parts of the body. Urine may appear foamy. There may be weight gain due to retained fluid.

Most susceptible are those with diabetes, lupus, heart failure, or another form of kidney or liver disease.

Nephrotic syndrome can lead to increased risk of infections and blood clots, as well as to further kidney damage and possible kidney failure.

Diagnosis involves finding the underlying disease that is causing the nephrotic syndrome, and begins with urine tests and blood tests. Sometimes kidney biopsy is done.

Treatment depends upon the underlying illness, and so will be different for different patients. Most cases are additionally treated with blood pressure control, diuretics, and improved diet.

Swollen penis treatments and relief

Quick medical treatment is necessary for some conditions that cause a swollen penis to prevent permanent damage that could lead to scarring, loss of tissue, and/or erectile dysfunction.

At-home treatments

There are several at-home remedies you can try to alleviate your symptoms.

  • Pause sexual activity: If you notice swelling and discomfort after sexual intercourse, avoid sex until your symptoms resolve and try using lubricant to reduce friction.
  • Avoid latex: Try using non-latex condoms and see whether your symptoms improve.
  • Practice good hygiene: Wash your penis daily with warm water to help prevent inflammation and infections.
  • Stay away from irritants: Avoid using soaps, perfumes, and lotions on the penis, since they may lead to contact dermatitis.
  • Take warm baths: These can help reduce swelling and discomfort.

When to schedule an appointment

In some cases, even if emergency care isn't necessary, you may need evaluation and treatment. Make an appointment with your medical provider if:

  • You are at risk for an STI (had unprotected sex and/or a sexual partner was diagnosed with an STI).
  • You have noticed sores, bumps, or penile discharge.
  • You are having difficulty urinating.
  • You have swelling that is staying the same or getting worse.
  • Your penis is painful.
  • You also notice swelling in other parts of your body, like your legs or scrotum.

Swollen penis quiz

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

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Medical treatments

Your medical provider may prescribe one or more of the following treatments, depending on the cause of your swollen penis:

  • Steroid cream: This can soothe contact dermatitis.
  • Antibiotic or antifungal treatment: This is for any infection.
  • Other skin medication: This can treat a skin condition such as psoriasis.
  • A diuretic medication: This will increase urination in order to get rid of extra fluid in the body associated with edema.
  • Circumcision: This canresolve recurrent inflammation and infection of the foreskin.
  • Compression and massage: This can help remove trapped lymphatic fluid, or referral for surgical management after other treatments are ineffective.

Seek emergency treatment for the following

You should seek treatment with delay if:

  • You have a painful, persistent erection (priapism).
  • Your foreskin becomes stuck after being retracted.
  • You experience pain, swelling, loss of erection, and/or bruising after an injury to the penis.
  • You have increasing swelling, redness, brown/dark discoloration, and/or fever. These symptoms may be signs of a severe bacterial infection.
  • You are unable to urinate.

Questions your doctor may ask about swollen penis

  • Do you notice anything going on with your penis?
  • Do you have a rash?
  • Did you recently suffer a sudden, physical injury to your penis?
  • Did you just suffer from a cut or wound?

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

Share your story
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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References

  1. Shigehara K, Namiki M. Clinical Management of Priapism: A Review. The World Journal of Men's Health. 2016;34(1):1-8. NCBI Link
  2. Pastor C, Granick MS. Scrotal Lymphedema. Eplasty. 2011;11:ic15. NCBI Link
  3. Jack GS, Garraway I, Reznichek R, Rajfer J. Current Treatment Options for Penile Fractures. Reviews in Urology. 2004;6(3):114-120. NCBI Link
  4. Buechner SA. Common Skin Disorders of the Penis. BJU International. 2002;90(5):498-506. NCBI Link
  5. Bardapure M, Vaswanj N. Cellulitis of the Penis: A Case Report. BMJ Case Reports. 2009;2009:bcr01.2009.1457. NCBI Link
  6. Morris BJ, Krieger JN. Penile Inflammatory Skin Disorders and the Preventive Role of Circumcision. International Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2017;8:32. NCBI Link