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Is the tip of your penis sore, red or itchy? Here’s why

Is the tip of your penis sore, red or itchy? Here’s why

Various conditions cause symptoms that affect the glans (head) of the penis. Redness, swelling, soreness or pain, itchiness – you may experience a combination of these symptoms, or just one or two. They can occur whether or not you have a foreskin (the sheath of skin covering the glans), or are circumcised. In all cases, these symptoms can be especially distressing when you aren’t sure of the cause, and you may be surprised to know that many varied conditions can be responsible. The good news is, there is help available and effective treatments are easy to come by.

Symptoms

In addition to pain, inflammation, redness, and itching, you may also experience:

  • A foul-smelling discharge
  • Pain with urination (dysuria)
  • Shiny or waxy appearance in the skin
  • Dry, cracked, or blistered skin
  • Swelling
  • Pain when having sexual intercourse

Do I need to see a doctor?

The answer is nearly always, yes. Whilst the irritation may not seem serious enough to warrant a visit to the GP, it is important to get checked. Many of these symptoms are common across a variety of conditions, and so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis. It’s also likely that conditions left untreated get worse – the longer you wait, the harder treatment can be. You also want to ensure you do not pass on any infections to sexual partners.

It’s impossible to self-diagnose in these circumstances, given the range of causes. Plus, there may be a systemic cause, underlying infection, or STI, which must be treated in order to avoid complications. Sooner is always better when it comes to treatment, so please do not hesitate to make yourself an appointment, and do ask to see a male doctor if you feel more comfortable.

STD Screening

What could be causing my symptoms?

Eczema
A common cause for the penis to have a sore, red, or itchy tip is contact or atopic dermatitis. Also known as eczema, this condition is triggered by external factors, such as the skin coming into contact with an irritant. It can be distressing, especially in severe cases, as blisters may form and pop, which leads to increased risk of infection. Irritants that cause dermatitis may include soap, shower gel, laundry detergent, sweat, latex, dietary allergens, or even a particularly well-chlorinated swimming pool. In the case of eczema, once you have a diagnosis from a doctor, treatment options include special emollients (moisturisers), creams, and avoidance of triggers.

Thrush
Thrush (also known as a yeast infection, or candidiasis), is more common in women than in men. Thrush is caused by a fungus called Candida albicans, and it causes symptoms that can be very uncomfortable. In addition to redness and irritation around the head of the penis, there is usually also a discharge, and the itching can be intense. A common treatment for thrush is an over-the-counter medication, but it’s important to have a diagnosis from the doctor rather than trying to treat it yourself. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, because the symptoms are similar to some sexually-transmitted infections, which may need to be ruled out. Secondly, thrush can indicate a more serious underlying condition, such as diabetes or a compromised immune system.

STD
Redness and inflammation of the glans are less common with STIs (STDs, or sexually-transmitted infections), but the itching and painful urination can be symptoms of some infections, such as chlamydia. The blistering of eczema may be similar in appearance to herpes lesions. If you are sexually active and have not been tested in a while, the doctor may recommend a sexual health screen to rule out infection.

sexual health screening

Balanitis
Balanitis is an irritation of the skin of the glans (head of the penis) and foreskin. You can have it whether or not you’ve been circumcised. In addition to soreness, redness, and swelling, you may also have itching, discharge, and pain on urination. This condition has a lot of crosses over with yeast infections and contact dermatitis, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis from a GP. It is usually caused by irritation or infection of some kind, and in the case of the former, it can often be prevented with correct hygiene.

Diabetes
With type 2 diabetes, there are high levels of glucose in the blood and urine, as well as increased sweating. All of these factors can increase fungal growth, meaning that repeated instances of thrush may be due to high blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is reversible, so the sooner you get checked out, the better.

Urethritis
Urethritis is a condition in which the urethra (the tube running through the penis) becomes infected. Symptoms can include penile discharge, pain with urination, a stinging sensation, itchiness, and irritation.

Medication
Some medications can cause allergic reactions that can lead to balanitis or recurrent yeast infections. These include tetracycline and some of the drugs used to treat diabetes.

Taking care of your penis

There are a few ways you can reduce the likelihood of penile irritation. Incorrect washing is the cause of many cases of balanitis and eczema, so here are a few tips to keep your penis happy and healthy:

  • Wash your penis by gently pulling back the foreskin and thoroughly rinsing with warm water. This removes any smegma (a white, oily substance) that naturally builds up underneath. If too much smegma builds up, it creates the perfect atmosphere for bacterial growth. It can also cause a funky smell.
  • Don’t use soap. It seems counter-intuitive, but soap can actually wash away the oils that keep your skin hydrated and healthy. It can also create irritation.
  • Dry properly after washing. Moist environments breed germs.
  • Wear cotton, loose-fit underwear. This keeps the atmosphere dry, decreases the amount you will sweat, and how long the sweat stays on your skin.
  • Use condoms with new, casual, or open partners.
  • Switch to latex-free condoms if you notice pain or irritation of your penis during or after sex – you may be allergic to latex.
  • Make sexual health testing part of your routine.

sexual health clinic

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Is the tip of your penis sore, red or itchy? Here’s why
Is the tip of your penis sore, red or itchy? Here’s why
Is the tip of your penis sore, red or itchy? Here’s why
Is the tip of your penis sore, red or itchy? Here’s why
Is the tip of your penis sore, red or itchy? Here’s why
Is the tip of your penis sore, red or itchy? Here’s why
Is the tip of your penis sore, red or itchy? Here’s why
Is the tip of your penis sore, red or itchy? Here’s why
Is the tip of your penis sore, red or itchy? Here’s why
Is the tip of your penis sore, red or itchy? Here’s why
Is the tip of your penis sore, red or itchy? Here’s why
Is the tip of your penis sore, red or itchy? Here’s why
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