A penis rash is not always a sign of an STD, but it might be. Learn about the symptoms of common penis problems, including rash, redness and itching, plus the treatments that can help.

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One common cause of penis rash is balanaitis, which is an infection of the glans and/or the foreskin. It typically occurs when body oils and dead skin cells build up underneath the foreskin. This substance causes irritation, which can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Swelling;
  • Redness;
  • Soreness/tenderness;
  • A whitish or yellowish discharge;
  • Cracks or fissures in the foreskin;
  • An itchy, red penis rash.

Good hygiene is the best way to prevent balanitis. Men should wash the area daily and remove any smegma from under the foreskin. If a balanitis infection does occur, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics or a steroid cream. A penis-friendly moisturizer can also help to soothe itchy, dry, or cracked skin.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes in contact with substances like chemical additive in soaps, lubricants or fabric softeners. Plant-based irritants such as grasses, poison ivy or poison oak can also cause adverse skin reactions. Symptoms of contact dermatis may include:

  • Redness;
  • Itching;
  • Inflammation;
  • Rough skin or rash.

Men who have allergies or sensitive skin should avoid contact with known irritants. Treatment for contact dermatitis may include use of over-the-counter anti-itch creams such as hydrocortisone. These creams often  contain a low dose of steroids to reduce itching and inflammation.

Natural moisturizers such as Shea butter can also soothe itchy skin and speed healing. For dermatitis on the penis, a penile health crème containing Shea butter and other soothing ingredients may be a better choice than a steroid ointment, which can cause the skin to become thin and brittle.

Jock Itch

Jock itch is a rash caused by tinea cruris, a fungus that is also responsible for athlete’s foot and ringworm. This microbe thrives in warm, moist environments, so the groin area is an ideal place for it to grow.  The rash may start as a small, round patch with a bumpy border that may spread quickly. It is often very itchy, and the edges of the rash may have a flaky or scaly appearance.

Topical antifungal ointments are usually effective for treating jock itch. Clotrimazole (sold under the brand names Lotrimin and Canesten, among others) is a good choice and is available in most pharmacies and supermarkets. Men who have jock itch may also want to invest in a penis health crème containing Shea butter and vitamin E, which are ideal for soothing itchy, irritated skin.

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is one of the most commonly-diagnosed sexually transmitted infections. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus and can be passed from one sexual partner to another even if no symptoms are present. Signs of genital herpes include breakouts of moderate to severe itching in the genital area and a painful rash or blisters that may break open, ooze and crust over.

Antiviral medications can reduce the frequency of breakouts, but there is no cure for this condition. Men who are sexually active should be tested regularly for herpes and other STIs and should ensure that their partners do the same.

**Note: While penis health crèmes are often helpful for other types of penis rash, men with herpes should avoid using products that contain L-arginine, as it can trigger breakouts or make them worse.

Lichen Planus

In rare cases, penis rash may be caused by lichen planus, an autoimmune condition. It appears as shiny, firm, reddish-purple bumps that can appear on the penis and other body parts. The bumps may also form rough, scaly patches of skin. Lichen planus may cause the penis skin to turn very red and to make sexual contact painful, if not impossible.

Lichen planus can’t be cured by medications, but the symptoms can be reduced with the use of medicated ointments prescribed by a doctor. In some men, the condition disappears in a year or two, but recurrences are common.

Men who experience any of the issues above should seek the advice of a medical professional, especially the first time they appear. Often, simple at-home measures can relieve the symptoms of penis rash.