Penile itching, whether caused by a sexually transmitted disease or not, can be so severe that it disrupts your day. Read on to learn about possible causes of penile itching, as well as tips for relief.
Causes of penis itching
Genital herpes, caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), can trigger pain and itching in the genital area and on the penis. The virus can lie dormant in the body for years, so some people infected with HSV don’t know. Along with itching, an outbreak can produce tiny clusters of fluid-filled blisters.
Lichen nitidus is inflammation of the skin cells that causes tiny bumps on different parts of the body, including the penis. Bumps are normally flat-topped, pin-sized, and flesh-colored.
Candidiasis (male thrush)
Also known as a male yeast infection, candidiasis can develop on the head of the penis. Along with itching under the foreskin and the tip of the penis, this condition can cause burning, redness, a rash, and cottage cheese-like discharge under the foreskin.
These small bumps are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. Genital warts are flesh-colored, resemble cauliflower, and can sometimes itch and bleed during intercourse.
Lichen planus and psoriasis
Lichen planus is an inflammatory condition that affects the hair, nails, and skin, including the penis. It can cause itchy, flat-topped bumps or blisters.
Psoriasis is another chronic skin condition that can affect the penis. Skin cells develop too quickly with this condition, resulting in the accumulation of skin cells on the skin’s surface. This causes itchy, red patches of scaly skin.
Scabies is a condition where tiny mites burrow underneath the skin’s surface. These mites tend to burrow in the folds of the skin, but can also burrow in the skin around the penis and male genital area.
Scabies causes an intense itch, and you may notice tiny burrow tracks on your penis.
Contact dermatitis is a rash that may develop on your penis if you come in contact with an allergen. This can include soaps, fragrances, and fabric. Along with itching, contact dermatitis can cause dry skin, a red genital rash, and tiny bumps.
Balanitis is inflammation of the glands of the penis. Other symptoms include soreness, itchiness, redness, and swelling. Some men also experience painful urination.
An ingrown hair at the base of the penis can itch and produce a soft bump or a painful blister.
This is inflammation of the tube (urethra) that carries urine from the bladder to the outside the body. Other symptoms of urethritis include frequent urination, difficulty urinating, and blood in the semen.
Causes of pubic itching
Not every itch in the groin area occurs on the penis. Conditions that can cause itching in this area include:
- pubic lice (crabs) are tiny parasitic insects that attach to the hair and skin in the pubic region
- folliculitis is a condition in which hair follicles are inflamed
- molluscum contagiosum is a benign viral infection of the skin
- jock itch is fungal infection of the skin in the genital area
- eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a condition in which your skin reacts to an allergen
Penile itching home remedies
Scratching can relieve a penis itch, but this relief may only be temporary. And if you scratch too much, there’s the risk of injury and possible skin infection. A few home remedies may soothe an itch and stop inflammation.
This remedy may relieve itching caused by scabies, contact dermatitis, or an ingrown hair. Apply a wet, cold cloth to your penis for 5 to 10 minutes, or apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel. The cooling effect of a cold compress can also ease inflammation caused by balanitis or urethritis.
The anti-inflammatory properties of this oatmeal can reduce skin irritation like itchiness and dryness. Prepare an oatmeal bath by sprinkling oatmeal grounds into lukewarm water.
Apple cider vinegar
If psoriasis causes your penis itch, apple cider vinegar may stop itching and irritation. Mix one-part apple cider vinegar with one-part water. Apply the solution directly to the penis, and then rinse once the mixture dries.
Don’t apply vinegar if you have a crack or break in the skin, or else the skin may burn.
Dead Sea salt
Another remedy for penis itch due to psoriasis is Dead Sea salt or Epsom salt. Add salt to warm bath water and soak for about 15 minutes.
If you have thrush or a yeast infection on your penis, applying baking soda may reduce itchiness. Add 1 cup of baking soda to a lukewarm bath and soak, or mix baking soda with water to create a paste. Apply the paste to your penis, and then rinse off a few minutes.
Medical treatments for penis itching
You may need an over-the-counter or prescription topical cream if home remedies aren’t effective. The type of medication depends on the underlying cause of penile itching.
- antibiotic (relieves an infection caused by bacteria on the skin)
- steroid creams and hydrocortisone (relieves skin itching, redness, and inflammation)
- antifungal medication (eliminates fungal infections, including yeast infections)
- antihistamine (relieves skin irritation caused by allergies)
When to see a doctor?
Some causes of penis itch don’t require you seeing a doctor. For example, an ingrown hair will heal on its own in about a week. Likewise, itching, redness, and inflammation from contact dermatitis may go away once you’re no longer exposed to the allergen or irritant.
Some conditions, however, may not go away without treatment.
See a doctor if a penis itch is severe or doesn’t improve, or if you have accompanying symptoms like discharge, blisters, pain, or a rash.
A doctor may be able to diagnose the cause of penis itch after examining your skin. Or, they may swab your penis and send the sample to a lab. This can confirm or rule out a virus, bacteria, and fungal infections.
Preventing penis itching
Avoid substances that cause irritation if you have contact dermatitis. This includes scented and perfumed soaps, and certain fabrics or materials.
Practicing good hygiene can also reduce itching. Bathe or shower daily and thoroughly rinse soap from your private area. Make sure you clean underneath your foreskin to remove dead skin cells, dirt, and bacteria, which can cause irritation and itching.
It’s also important to completely dry your body after bathing. Moisture can encourage the growth of yeast. If you have a history of ingrown hairs, avoid close shaves, shave in the direction of hair growth, and apply shaving cream before shaving to soften your skin. Also, wear loose-fitting underwear. Tight underwear can cause friction and a skin rash.Bottom Line:
Don’t ignore persistent penile itching. Even though home remedies are often the first line of defense, see a doctor if itching doesn’t improve or worsens, or if you have other symptoms.References:
Eczema and bathing. (n.d).
Herb/natural remedies. (n.d.).
Letscher-Bru V, et al. (2013). Antifungal activity of sodium bicarbonate against fungal agents causing superficial infections. DOI:
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Itchy skin.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Ingrown hair.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Scabies.
Reynerston KA, et al. (2015). Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin.
Thrush in men. (2018).