Jock itch, scabies, and thrush can all give you an itchy penis. Here’s how to diagnose and Rectify the 10 most common causes of genital itching.
An itchy penis or genital area can be uncomfortable, worrying, and downright embarrassing if the itch strikes at the wrong moment. But while awkward genital health issues might be something you’d rather ignore, it’s best to determine the cause of your itchy penis quickly so you can either seek the right treatment or relax and scratch that itch without worry.
If you’re suffering from a sore todger, try not to panic. Dr. Andrew Thornber gives us the lowdown on the top 10 causes of an itchy penis – and how to fix them. Don’t forget, scratching will only make things worse, so hands off!
10 reasons why you have an itchy penis
If you can’t stop scratching your penis or genital area, you might be second-guessing yourself and wondering when you might have picked up a sexually transmitted infection (STI). But while STIs are common, it’s perfectly normal to have an itchy penis for a number of different reasons unrelated to your sexual health. We share the 10 most common causes of an itchy penis, and how to fix them:
1. Jock itch
Jock itch (also known as tinea cruris) can be uncomfortable, but usually isn’t serious and is quite common. It’s usually triggered by excess sweating and commonly occurs in people who exercise a lot. (Jock itch gets its name because it’s common in athletes.)
Jock itch is caused by a ringworm fungal infection. This fungus is highly contagious and can be spread easily from person to person, through the use of shared clothing and towels. It can also occur in those who are overweight, have diabetes, or have a weakened immune system.
It typically begins with a red area of skin in the crease in the groin that then spreads to the upper thigh in a half-moon shape. The rash may be ring-shaped and bordered with a line of small blisters and may feel itchy. The affected skin may also be flaky or scaly.
• How to treat jock itch
The infection can be treated with antifungal medicine. It’s important to stay dry, especially around the groin area. Wear clean clothing, avoid tight-fitting jeans, and don’t share towels or other personal items. Change your underwear at least once a day or more often if you sweat a lot (wear underwear made of cotton or other fabric that breathes and keeps the skin drier) and try wearing boxer shorts rather than briefs. If you have an athlete’s foot fungal infection, treat this to prevent any spread to the groin.
Chafing can often occur when your thighs rub together and is quite common among runners, as the rubbing puts pressure on the skin barrier and causes a burn and/or itch.
• How to treat chafing
Moisturizing regularly with a skin irritant protective moisturizer will help to alleviate pain from chafing. Use Bodyglide during exercise to minimize chafe.
3. Pubic lice
If you’re suffering from itching and notice little parasites moving in your pubic hairs or white specks (eggs), then you may have pubic lice, or crabs, as they are more commonly known. They are spread by close physical contact, including sexual contact, and are not linked to poor personal hygiene. The most common symptom of pubic lice is itchy red spots, and it can take one to three weeks for itching to develop, usually worse at night.
.How to treat pubic lice
Pop to your GP or local sexual health clinic where they will prescribe a specialist formula. Pubic lice can be treated at home with (insecticidal) lotion or cream that will kill the lice. This will usually need to be applied once and repeated after seven days. Everyone that you’ve had close body contact with should be treated at the same time. This includes current sexual partners and may include members of your household.
Scabies is a dermatological condition, caused by mites. It’s highly contagious and often, entire families will become infected by the mites. Besides genital itching, scabies can also cause a bright red cluster of small bumps on the affected area and can spread to other areas of the body.
• How to treat scabies
Visit your local pharmacist, who will prescribe a cream to help eradicate the mites. It is not usually a serious condition, but it does need to be treated with a cream or lotion that you apply over your whole body. You need to repeat the treatment one week later and everyone in your home needs to be treated at the same time, even if they do not have symptoms, along with anyone you have had sexual contact with in the previous 8 weeks. Wash all bedding and clothing at 50C or higher and you or your child can go back to work or school 24 hours after the first treatment.
5. Genital warts
Genital warts are sexually transmitted, being passed on by vaginal and anal sex, sharing sex toys, and, rarely, by oral sex. They usually appear as small, cauliflower-like bumps around the genital area. There may be just one or two, or they might appear in a cluster.
• How to treat genital warts
Visit your GP or local sexual health clinic, where warts will either be frozen off or you’ll be given a cream to help get rid of them. The type of treatment you’ll be offered depends on what warts look like and where they are – the doctor or nurse will discuss this with you.
Balanitis is a skin condition that causes a sore, itchy and smelly penis (usually the end of the penis), redness and swelling, a build-up of thick fluid, and pain when urinating. It is most common in men and boys who have not been circumcised.
• How to treat balanitis
Your GP will, in the first instance, prescribe a cream to help balanitis clear up. If that doesn’t work, you will be referred to a dermatologist or urologist. It’s important to always visit your GP, to ensure you don’t have an STI.
7. Male thrush
Thrush in men usually causes irritation, burning, and redness around the head of the penis and under the foreskin. Commonly, thrush is also accompanied by an unpleasant smell and a white (cottage cheese-like) discharge.
• How to treat thrush in men
Visit your GP or pharmacist, who will be able to prescribe an anti-fungal cream or medication.
8. Razor burn
If you shave your pubic hair, you may experience razor burn. This can occur when using an old or blunt razor, shaving without a lubricant such as shaving foam, or shaving the same area multiple times in quick succession and can cause an itchy red rash and small bumps to appear on the surface of the pubic area and penis.
• How to treat razor burn
Razor burn usually settles with time but avoid shaving the affected area again for a week or so to allow it to heal. To help soothe itching, apply a cool washcloth to the affected area and be careful not to rub the affected area, as this may further irritate the skin. After washing, pat the area dry then apply an emollient, avoiding any products that contain alcohol because they can cause irritation. Natural coconut oil can be used to help hydrate the area and an over-the-counter (OTC) option is a topical cream containing hydrocortisone which can help reduce any swelling and calm any skin redness and itching.
9. Contact dermatitis
Contact dermatitis is an itchy rash that may develop on your penis if you come in contact with something you are allergic to such as soaps, fragrances, and fabric although other less common allergies can cause this such as the metal in trouser zips that can irritate the penis if underwear is not worn. Along with the itching, contact dermatitis can cause skin dryness a red rash, and tiny bumps.
• How to treat contact dermatitis
The best treatment for contact dermatitis is to avoid whatever is triggering the allergy so change your washing powder and soap to see if this eliminates the cause.
10. Eczema of the penis
Eczema is a condition that causes the skin to become dry, inflamed, and itchy. Eczema on the penis may appear as dry skin on the shaft.
• How to treat eczema of the penis
To fix the eczema of the penis, the best treatment is with skin moisturizers and occasionally hydrocortisone (steroid) ointment.