Penile pain can affect the base, shaft, or head of the penis. It can also affect the foreskin. An itching, burning, or throbbing sensation may accompany the pain. Penile pain can be a result of an accident or disease. It can affect males of any age.
The pain can vary depending on what underlying condition or disease is causing it. If you have an injury, the pain may be severe and occur suddenly. If you have a disease or condition, the pain may be mild and may gradually get worse.
Any type of pain in the penis is a cause for concern, particularly if it occurs during an erection, prevents urination, or occurs along with discharge, sores, redness, or swelling.
Possible causes of pain in the penis
Peyronie’s disease starts when an inflammation causes a thin sheet of scar tissue, called plaque, to form along the upper or lower ridges of the shaft of the penis. Because the scar tissue forms next to the tissue that becomes hard during an erection, you may notice that your penis bends when it’s erect.
The disease can happen if bleeding inside the penis starts after you bend or hit it, if you have a connective tissue disorder, or if you have an inflammation of your lymphatic system or blood vessels. The disease can run in some families or the cause of the disease may be unknown.
If priapism occurs, you should get treatment immediately to prevent long-term effects of the disease that may affect your ability to have an erection.
Priapism may result from:
- side effects of drugs used to treat erection problems or drugs used to treat depression
- blood clotting disorders
- mental health disorders
- blood disorders, such as leukemia or sickle cell anemia
- alcohol use
- illegal drug use
- injury to the penis or spinal cord
Balanitis is an infection of the foreskin and the head of the penis. It usually affects men and boys who don’t wash under the foreskin regularly or who haven’t been circumcised. Men and boys who have been circumcised can also get it.
Other causes of balanitis can include:
- a yeast infection
- a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- an allergy to soap, perfumes, or other products
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
An STI can cause penile pain. STIs that cause pain include:
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is more common in women, but it can also happen in men. A UTI occurs when bacteria invade and infect your urinary tract. An infection might happen if you:
- are uncircumcised
- have a weakened immune system
- have a problem or blockage in your urinary tract
- have sex with someone who has an infection
- have anal sex
- have an enlarged prostate
Like any other part of your body, an injury can damage your penis. Injuries can happen if you:
- are in a car accident
- get burned
- have rough sex
- put a ring around your penis to prolong an erection
- insert objects into your urethra
Phimosis and paraphimosis
Phimosis occurs in uncircumcised males when the foreskin of the penis is too tight. It can’t be pulled away from the head of the penis. It usually happens in children, but it can also occur in older males if balanitis or an injury causes scarring in the foreskin.
A related condition called paraphimosis happens if your foreskin pulls back from the head of the penis, but then can’t return to its original position covering the penis.
Paraphimosis is a medical emergency because it can stop you from urinating and may cause the tissue in your penis to die.
Penile cancer is another cause of penile pain, although it’s uncommon. Certain factors increase your chances of getting cancer, including:
- not being circumcised
- having a human papillomavirus infection (HPV)
- not cleaning under your foreskin if you’re uncircumcised
- being treated for psoriasis
According to the Cleveland Clinic, most cases of penile cancer occur in men ages 50 or older.
Treatment options for pain in the penis
Treatment varies depending on the condition or disease:
- Injections soften Peyronie’s disease plaques. A surgeon can remove them in severe cases.
- Draining the blood from the penis with a needle helps reduce an erection if you have priapism. Medication may also lower the amount of blood flowing to the penis.
- Antibiotics treat UTIs and some STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Antibiotics and antifungal medications can also treat balanitis.
- Antiviral medications can help reduce or shorten herpes outbreaks.
- Stretching the foreskin with your fingers may make it looser if you have phimosis. Steroid creams rubbed on your penis can also help. In some cases, surgery is necessary.
- Icing the head of your penis reduces swelling in paraphimosis. Your doctor may suggest putting pressure on the head of the penis. They can also inject medications into the penis to help it drain. In addition, they can make small cuts in the foreskin to decrease swelling.
- A surgeon can remove cancerous parts of the penis. Treatment for penile cancer may also include radiation treatment or chemotherapy.
Preventing pain in the penis
You can take some steps to reduce your chances of developing pain, such as using condoms when you have sex, avoiding sex with anyone who has any kind of active infection, and asking sexual partners to avoid rough movements that bend your penis.
If you’re having repeated infections or other problems with your foreskin, having a circumcision or cleaning under your foreskin every day can help.
If you experience pain in your penis, consult your doctor right away. If an STI is the cause of your penile pain, let your current or potential partners know to avoid spreading the infection. Early diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause can have a positive effect on your health and well-being.Reference:
Written by Holly McGurgan — Updated on September 3, 2019
Gonorrhea — CDC fact sheet. (2014).
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Priapism.
Penile disorders. (2015).