This article explores how to recognize and treat genital psoriasis.
Genital psoriasis can cause dry, red patches on the skin.
Genital psoriasis can cause on-going discomfort due to heightened sensitivity.
Inverse psoriasis is the most common type of psoriasis found in the groin and genital area. This leads to smooth, dry, red patches on the skin. Inverse psoriasis is often more painful than other types of psoriasis, and the areas can feel sore and itchy.
Psoriasis causes different symptoms in different areas of the pelvis and thigh, as follows:
- Pubis: This refers to the area just above the genitals. The skin is more sensitive here, so doctors advise caution when applying treatments to the pubis.
- Upper thighs: Psoriasis on the upper thighs consists of small, round patches that are red and scaly. Irritation can occur to psoriasis in this area, especially in people whose thighs rub together when they walk or run.
- Creases between the thigh and groin: Psoriasis appears as non-scaly, red, and white in the creases between the thigh and groin. The skin may also have fissures or cracks. Those who are overweight or athletic might also develop an infection in the folds of the skin that resembles a yeast infection. It can occur on the genital area in both men and women.
- Vulva: Psoriasis of the vulva often appears smooth, non-scaly, and red. While it can cause itchy sensations, it is important not to scratch the area, as this can cause infection and dryness. This infection can result in thickening of the skin and additional itching. Genital psoriasis typically does not affect mucous membranes and stays on the outer layer of vaginal skin.
- Penis: Psoriasis of the penis takes the shape of many small, red patches on the shaft. The skin may appear scaly or be smooth and shiny. This condition can occur in all males, whether they are circumcised or not.
- Anus and surrounding area: Psoriasis on or near the anus is red, non-scaly, and likely to itch. Symptoms can be similar to those of yeast infections, hemorrhoidal itching, and pinworm infestations.
Genital psoriasis of the anus can also cause rectal bleeding, pain while passing stools, and dryness. The creases of the buttocks can incur heavy scaling and redness, although the skin is less sensitive and difficult to treat
Flare-ups of genital psoriasis can be difficult to treat in some cases, but they typically respond well to remedies and soothing options, and can even resolve without treatment.
The condition is chronic, however, and a person can never fully cure it. However, there are times of exacerbation and remission.
Individuals should use topical creams carefully to avoid extra thinning of the skin and the formation of stretch marks.
Relieving an itch can be relatively uncomfortable, but treating lesions is more difficult. A person must constantly moisturize the area with psoriasis and use topical treatments or ultraviolet (UV) light.
Treatments for genital psoriasis include:
- Topical medications: Doctors tend to prescribe low-strength corticosteroids for genital psoriasis. Overuse of topical corticosteroids, however, can lead to permanently thin skin and stretch marks. Over-the-counter (OTC) moisturizers can be helpful in keeping the area moisturized.
- Avoid moisturizers with fragrances and perfumes: These might cause irritation. Stick mainly to vitamin D creams and ointments, as they are less likely to irritate the skin.
- UV light: UV light helps treat genital psoriasis in special circumstances. Doses must be lower than a person would use for psoriasis that appears elsewhere. Overuse can burn the delicate skin of the genitals.
- Emollients: Emollients can cover the skin with a protective layer and prevent water loss.
- Calcineurin inhibitors: Tacrolimus and pimecrolimus can help treat genital psoriasis without thinning the skin. They can, however, cause an uncomfortable burning sensation and reactivate sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as herpes or viral warts.
In some cases, doctors might prescribe oral medication.
Genital psoriasis medications can cause some adverse side effects, such as irritation, headache, insomnia, fever, and diarrhea. A person with genital psoriasis or related symptoms should always talk to a doctor.
This is to not only to ensure that treatment is safe and effective, but also to rule out other conditions, including STIs.
Genital psoriasis can get worse as a result of friction during sexual intercourse. Contact with certain irritants might also cause a flare-up.
These irritants include:
- tight-fitting clothes
Using a condom during intercourse might help to reduce potential discomfort. It also forms a barrier to avoid skin-to-skin and fluid-to-skin contact, which reduces irritation further.
After intercourse, people with genital psoriasis should thoroughly cleanse the area and reapply any medications to assist recovery.
Since the area can take on a different appearance and the person might experience some discomfort, people experiencing genital psoriasis should communicate with their partner about the condition openly. Though sexual intercourse can cause irritation, genital psoriasis is not transmissible and should not interfere with sexual activity.
Psoriasis typically occurs after a trigger and there are several different types. The exact cause of psoriasis requires more research, but anomalies in the immune system and genetics might play a key role in the development.
People with psoriasis develop skin cells at an extremely fast rate, and these build up into the scaly lesions that are characteristic of psoriasis.
Genetics might play a role in the development of psoriasis.
Psoriasis statistics are similar across both men and women with the condition.
According to The National Psoriasis Foundation, at least 10 percent of people inherit one or more genes that could eventually lead to psoriasis.
Only 2 to 3 percent of the population develops the disease, but one-third of people with psoriasis have a family member with the disease.
Psoriasis can also occur in people of any race, although there are differences in the prevalence of the condition between races. Caucasian people have a 3.6 percent chance of developing the condition, and African-American people only a 1.9 percent.
A person who develops psoriasis might have a certain combination of the genes and has undergone exposure to specific external triggers.
Psoriasis triggers include:
- infection, such as strep throat or skin infections
- injury to the skin, such as a cut or scrape, bug bite, or severe sunburn
- stress and other environmental factors
- cold weather
- drinking large amounts of alcohol
- some medications, including lithium, high blood pressure medications, antimalarial drugs, and iodides
Symptoms of psoriasis vary from person to person, but a few common signs include:
- red patches of skin covered with silvery scales
- small, scaly spots that are common in children
- dry, cracked skin that might be prone to bleeding
- itching, burning, or soreness
- thickened, pitted, or ridged nails
- swollen and stiff joints
When experiencing the symptoms of psoriasis in the genital area or anywhere else, use this handy resource from the American Association of Dermatology to find a specialist near you.
What is the best way to relieve symptoms of psoriasis on the genitals?
One of the best ways to ease the itchy and irritating symptoms of genital psoriasis is to keep the area moisturized and free of irritants like fragrances, tight clothing, or clothing that clings to or scratches the body.
If this is not effective enough to relieve your irritation, you should see a doctor for more effective treatment.Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.