Scrotal eczema, also called dermatitis, is a noncontagious, itchy, and dry skin condition. It affects the scrotum, the sac of skin containing the testicles. It can also involve the penis, groin, medial thighs, and around the anus.
Eczema is a broad term doctors use to describe a condition causing itchy and inflamed skin. Scrotal dermatitis may be a result of atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, or a combination of more than one type of eczema.
Scrotal eczema shares some of the same symptoms as eczema elsewhere on the body. This article looks at these symptoms, along with steps to help treat and manage the condition.
In scrotal eczema, the eczema flares occur on the scrotum, which is the skin around the sac that holds the testicles. Genital eczema may also affect the penis, groin, and skin around the anus and buttocks.
Eczema symptoms may vary depending on the condition’s severity. People with eczema often experience periods where symptoms worsen and periods where they improve. When eczema worsens, doctors call it a flare.
Scrotal eczema symptoms may include:
- intense itchiness
- dry, sensitive skin
- inflamed, scaly skin
- discolored skin
- rough, thickened, leathery, or scaly skin
- areas of swelling
- open, crusted, weeping sores
In people of color, a scrotal eczema flare-up may appear dark brown, purple, or ashen gray in color. On lighter skin, it can appear as red patches.
More severe cases of scrotal eczema can include bleeding, crusting, and weeping of sores. Scratching the itchy skin can also open up sores, which are
Continuously scratching or rubbing itchy skin may also lead to lichenification, which is thick, leathery skin that develops due to excessive scratching. It can lead to a person scratching more, causing an itch-scratch cycle.
People who have severe eczema may experience flares that last for many days or weeks.
Similar or related conditions
Scrotal eczema shares symptoms with a number of other conditions that cause itching and irritation around the groin, including:
- yeast infection
- lumbosacral neurodermatitis
- lichen sclerosis
- lichen planus
Some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may also cause dry and itchy skin around the genitals. These include:
People with atopic dermatitis, which is a type of eczema,
- hay fever
- other skin diseases
- sleep loss
In addition, when a person experiences chronic itching and discomfort that is difficult to control, they can experience depression or anxiety.
Due to shared symptoms with these conditions, it is important for people to see a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.
Some eczema risk factors are genetic, while others are environmental. The risk factors can also vary according to the type of eczema a person has.
Often, scrotal dermatitis occurs as a reaction to something in the environment. This makes it usually contact dermatitis. In other cases, it may be atopic dermatitis.
Risk factors for atopic dermatitis that cannot be changed include:
- Family history: The chance of developing atopic dermatitis is higher if there is a family history of atopic dermatitis, hay fever, or asthma.
- Ethnicity: Research suggests atopic dermatitis is
more commonin non-Hispanic Black children.
- Genetics: Some people with atopic dermatitis have a mutation of a gene responsible for creating filaggrin, a protein that helps protect the skin barrier and keep skin moisturized. Additionally, a
2017 studyfound a link between the genes that cause asthma, hay fever, and atopic dermatitis.
Healthcare providers refer to eczema “triggers” as any factors that contribute to or cause an eczema flare. Common triggers for atopic, seborrheic, or contact dermatitis include:
- Yeast: The
presenceof a certain type of yeast on the skin.
- Environmental factors: Changes in the weather or living in particularly cold, dry, or humid environments may cause eczema flare-ups.
- Allergens: These include chemicals and fragrances found in soaps, detergents, and clothing. They also include latex in condoms, pollen, or mold, or exposure to materials such as metals in jewelry.
- Psychological stress: Anxiety and stress are common atopic dermatitis triggers.
There is no cure for scrotal eczema, but treatments are available to reduce symptoms. The main treatments for eczema include:
- Emollients (moisturizers): These help prevent the skin from becoming dry.
- Corticosteroids: These are topical creams and ointments people use to reduce inflammation during flare-ups. They can include clobetasol, hydrocortisone, and others. In addition, a person with a severe flare-up can take oral prednisone or methylprednisolone. Learn more about corticosteroids here.
- Low or moderate potency topical corticosteroids:
People use thesefor the treatment of eczema in the genital areas.
- Lifestyle changes: This means identifying and avoiding triggers that cause eczema flares.
In some cases, a healthcare professional may prescribe medications known as topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs). These can treat sensitive areas such as the groin without thinning the skin. A doctor may also prescribe them as part of combination therapy with corticosteroids.
If a person has an infection in an area with dermatitis, then a doctor may prescribe additional medications such as antibiotics or antifungal medications.
In 2017, the
Anti-itch preparations may help relieve severe itching and discomfort. If nighttime itching prevents sleep, a healthcare provider may suggest a sedating antihistamine.
It is possible to prevent or manage scrotal eczema by identifying and mitigating eczema triggers and removing the sources of irritation. This could mean wearing loose clothing, immediately stopping the use of any offending over-the-counter (OTC) products, and having counseling to deal with stress.
Steps to take include:
- wearing clothing that allows good air circulation around the testicles
- having a regular bathing and moisturizing routine
- avoiding OTC topicals that cause skin irritation
- getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals in your diet
- avoiding substances or materials that trigger an allergic reaction, such as scented detergents and softeners, and using gentle soap without a fragrance
Keeping the groin area clean is crucial. People should dry the area thoroughly but gently after each wash to help prevent or manage the issue if eczema has developed. A person should use emollients within 3 minutes of bathing to help “lock-in” moisture.
It is essential that people with scrotal eczema avoid scratching their scrotum.
If someone is using a steroid cream to treat their eczema, they should wait until the cream is thoroughly dry before applying an emollient.
Some condoms and spermicides may irritate the skin. If these do cause a problem, a doctor can suggest an alternative to use.
People should visit their doctor if they experience any signs of irritation. Doing so can help to avoid a worsening of eczema symptoms, and this may also uncover an underlying related medical condition.
How do you get rid of scrotal eczema?
There is no cure for scrotal eczema. However, a person can manage it through a combination of prescription and OTC medications and by avoiding exposure to triggers such as allergens and irritants.
What is the difference between scrotal eczema and jock itch?
Jock itch is a
Are there home remedies for scrotal eczema?
People can try several methods to manage symptoms at home. These include:
- taking an oatmeal bath
- taking a mild bleach bath, which a person should dilute by mixing one part bleach with 10 parts water
- having a regular moisturizing routine, especially after bathing
- wearing cotton underwear as other fabrics may irritate the skin
- applying a cool compress to the scrotum
- keeping nails short to avoid scratching
- covering itchy skin with soft, loose-fitting clothing
- using a sedating antihistamine if nighttime itching is a problem
- avoiding irritating soaps, shampoos, bubble baths, or shower gels
Scrotal eczema, like eczema found elsewhere on the body, tends to be the result of various irritants coming into contact with the skin.
Irritants can include heat and humidity, OTC products that cause irritation or an allergic reaction, and contraceptives, such as condoms.
Researchers believe that atopic dermatitis can occur due to either genetic or environmental triggers, and sometimes due to both. Contact dermatitis is usually a response to an environmental trigger. Atopic dermatitis is often genetic, but the environment may also trigger it.
If someone develops problems with eczema, it is likely that they will experience multiple episodes in the future if they reintroduce any of the irritants that cause eczema.
Often, people can treat mild forms of scrotal eczema with a mild, topical steroid cream. Sometimes, however, the symptoms can disappear on their own once a person removes irritants.
More severe cases will require a doctor to prescribe medication and treatments, including specific steroids, antihistamines, moisturizers, and possibly UV ray therapy.
Scrotal eczema may progress from mild to more serious stages quickly if it is not dealt with appropriately. It can also be a symptom of a more serious underlying health condition. People should arrange to see a doctor as soon as they notice symptoms appearing.