Penis irritation is an uncomfortable, unpleasant, or painful sensation on or around the penis. In some cases, the penis may become red and swollen.

There are many reasons why the penis may become irritated. These include injury, infections, or a skin reaction. In most cases, penis irritation is not a significant source of concern, but a person may require treatment.

Read on to find out the causes of penis irritation, treatments, home remedies, prevention, and when to see a doctor.

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Depending on the cause, people may experience irritation on any part of the penis and genital area. Below are images detailing different visual presentations of penis irritation causes.

The penis consists of several areas:

  • The tip: The penis tip is the head of the penis. Doctors may also refer to this as the glans penis.
  • The shaft: This is the main part of the penis and connects the tip to the pubis area.
  • The pubis area: This is where the base of the penis connects between a person’s legs.
  • Foreskin: A penis may or may not have a foreskin, a piece of skin covering the tip. When erect, the foreskin pulls back.

Irritation may occur in one, multiple, or all areas of the penis. Some reasons for irritation include the following:

Sexually transmitted infections

A sexually transmitted infection (STI) may cause the penis to become irritated. STIs may affect the whole penis and area around it or just one area. Some examples include:

Some common symptoms of STIs are soreness on and around the penis, pain during urination and sex, discharge, and lumps.

For example, syphilis causes small ulcers (chancre) in its early stages. These can cause irritation and skin discoloration in the surrounding areas and secrete fluid if broken. Herpes can also cause irritation, discoloration, and blisters, while gonorrhea can cause discoloration and swelling in the penis and foreskin, leading to discomfort.

Fungal infections

Several fungal infections can occur on the penis.

Balanitis is an infection that affects the tip of the penis. Typical symptoms of balanitis include redness around the tip, unpleasant smell, tight foreskin, and in extreme cases, creamy discharge under the foreskin.

Although balanitis is typically a fungal infection, it can also result from bacterial or viral infection.

Penile thrush is a yeast infection that the fungus candidiasiscauses. Signs that someone may have penile thrush include:

  • redness around the penis tip and under the foreskin
  • white discharge
  • an unpleasant smell

Physical injury

If a penis sustains a physical injury, inflammation and swelling may occur. Common causes of penile injury may be from sex, accidents, burns, or sports.

For example, a penile fracture may occur during sexual intercourse.

Chemical irritation

If a person has recently used a new laundry detergent, soap, or lotion, this may cause the penis to become irritated. This may also happen if a person is using perfumed soap or lotion.

Condom use

Some people may find that wearing a condom irritates their penis. If this occurs after using a latex condom, they may want to consider using a hypoallergenic condom.

Poor hygiene

A penis may become swollen and irritated if a person does not clean it well. If there is a foreskin, the individual may develop smegma as a result of poor hygiene. Smegma is a thick, white substance that may smell. It consists of oil, moisture, and dead skin cells.


Engaging in sex without enough lubrication may cause friction that irritates the penis. A person may wish to consider using a water-based lubricant to increase lubrication during sex.

Skin conditions

If a person notices flaky, dry skin on the shaft of their penis with irritation, itchiness, and redness, this may mean they have a skin condition.

Some skin conditions that affect the penis include eczema and psoriasis.

If the penis is irritated, a person can first see a pharmacist. These healthcare professionals can offer recommendations about over-the-counter (OTC) treatments.

However, it may be necessary to visit a doctor to determine the underlying cause of penis irritation.

Depending on the cause of the penis irritation, a person may receive the following treatments:

  • Steroid ointments: A person will often require steroid ointment if the cause is skin-related, such as in cases of eczema.
  • Antihistamines: If the irritation is due to an allergy, antihistamines can help.
  • Antifungal medication: If the cause of the penis irritation is a fungal infection, antifungal medication can target the infection.
  • Antibiotics: With a bacterial infection, an individual will require antibiotics.

If the penis looks and feels irritated, a person may want to try some home remedies to soothe the pain.

  • Cool compress: Placing a cool compress on the area may help soothe irritation.
  • Avoid sexual activities: Engaging in sex may lead to further irritation. If the cause of irritation is an STI, not having sex will prevent a person from passing it on.
  • Maintain hygiene: Keeping the penis clean and dry is essential to promote good wound healing.

Depending on the cause of the penis irritation, a person may take steps to prevent the irritation from occurring. Some preventive measures include:

  • Avoiding sex with anyone who has an STI: A person catches STIs through sexual activity with someone who carries an STI. To avoid catching one, they should not have sex with someone who has an STI. Another way is through sexual abstinence.
  • Using barrier methods: If a person does not want to abstain completely from sex, using barrier methods, such as condoms, may reduce the risk of catching an STI.
  • Choosing mild products: Using perfume-free or mild products may reduce the risk of irritating the penis.
  • Practicing good hygiene: A person should consider taking regular showers and drying their penis thoroughly to prevent irritation. If a person has a foreskin on their penis, they should clean underneath it.
  • Circumcision: Certain causes of penis irritation may be due to issues with the foreskin. A 2017 study suggests that circumcision may help reduce conditions, such as balanitis.

A person may wish to consider seeing a doctor if their penis irritation:

  • becomes extremely painful
  • does not improve with OTC treatments
  • shows other symptoms, such as discharge, unpleasant smell, or itchiness

A doctor will examine the penis to assess the cause of irritation and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

People may experience penis irritation on the shaft, tip, pubis, or all of the penis. Reasons the penis may become irritated include bacterial infections, skin conditions, yeast infections, fungal infections, and poor hygiene.

If a person is experiencing penis irritation, home remedies may provide some relief, or a pharmacist can suggest OTC treatments. If the irritation becomes very painful, appears with other symptoms, or does not improve with OTC treatment, a person may need to visit their doctor.

Avoiding sexual activity with anyone who has an STI, using mild or unscented soap products, and maintaining good hygiene can help prevent an irritated penis.