In most cases, regularly cleaning the penis keeps odor to a minimum. However, some conditions may cause the penis' odor to change or smell foul.
Often, using simple home remedies will reduce penis odor. However, some conditions require medical treatment.
In this article, we look at common causes of a smelly penis, as well as how to treat them.
Causes of a smelly penis can include:
Smegma is an accumulation of dead skin cells and the natural oils that keep the penis moist. If a person does not clean their penis regularly, the smegma can build up, resulting in a thick white substance.
This buildup is more common on uncircumcised penises as it forms around the head of the penis.
In addition to a bad smell, smegma can:
- cause redness and irritation
- prevent the foreskin from easily moving when the penis is erect
- increase the risk of a bacterial infection
Balanitis is skin irritation on the tip of the penis. Some of the primary causes of balanitis include:
- poor hygiene
- skin conditions, such as psoriasis
- allergic reactions to medications, soaps, or condoms
If a person suspects balanitis may be the cause of a bad smell, they should talk to a doctor about possible treatments.
Sexually transmitted infection (STI)
Symptoms of chlamydia include:
- white, watery discharge from the penis
- pain while urinating
- testicle pain
Symptoms of gonorrhea include:
- green, white, or yellow discharge from the penis
- pain or burning while urinating
- inflammation in the foreskin
Anyone who suspects they may have an STI should seek medical attention and refrain from sexual activity until they have finished treatment.
Non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU)
NGU is inflammation of the urethra, which is the tube connecting the tip of the penis to the bladder.
In most cases, inflammation of the urethra is due to an STI, such as chlamydia. However, in cases of NGU, the cause of the swelling is unknown.
Symptoms of NGU may include:
- cloudy or white discharge from the penis
- frequent urge to urinate
- burning or painful urination
- irritation or soreness near the tip of the penis
A yeast infection occurs when too much of the Candida fungus is present on the penis. While vaginal yeast infections are much more common, yeast infections can also affect the penis.
In addition to a bad smell, other symptoms of a yeast infection include:
- burning or itching sensation
- irritation and redness on the penis
- a white substance with a cottage cheese consistency
- unusual moisture on the penis
It is essential to seek medical treatment for a yeast infection, as it may lead to further infections and complications.
Urinary tract infection (UTI)
A UTI occurs when bacteria or a virus gets into the urinary tract. UTIs can cause:
- a smelly penis
- pink or cloudy urine
- frequent urges to urinate
- burning sensation when urinating
Risk factors for developing UTIs include:
Treating a UTI can help prevent further complications, including kidney problems or the infection spreading beyond the urinary tract.
Practicing proper hygiene can help avoid infections and reduce any odor coming from the penis. It is essential to wash the genitals at least once a day with a gentle cleanser and warm water.
After cleaning the penis, a person should make sure the area is completely dry before putting on clothing.
In addition to daily washing, a person should consider taking some additional steps to keep the penis odor-free. These steps include:
- cleaning the penis after engaging in sexual activity
- wearing loose-fitting, breathable clothing
- using barrier protection, such as condoms, during sexual activity
- avoiding sexual activity when either partner has an STI or other infection
- cleaning under the foreskin if uncircumcised
Treating a smelly penis depends largely on what is causing the smell. If a lack of correct hygiene is an issue, a person can gently wash their penis more regularly with warm water.
It is best to avoid heavily scented products on the genitals, as they can irritate the skin and increase a person's risk of infections. People should also refrain from using cologne, scented cream, or other perfumes directly on the penis.
If a person suspects they have an infection, they should see a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment. Treatment may include antibiotics, antifungal medications, or other medications.
A person should see a doctor if any of the following symptoms accompany a smelly penis:
- unusual discharge
- pain or burning during urination
- increased need to urinate
- irritation and redness on the outside of the penis
In most cases, a person can treat a smelly penis with simple techniques at home, starting with better hygiene.
If other symptoms are present, such as pain, irritation, or discharge, it is best to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.