Eczema, a condition making skin red, flaky, and itchy, typically is found where the skin flexes – inside the elbows, behind the knees, or in front of the neck. But for men, this inflammatory condition may also occur on the penis and surrounding genital area including the scrotum, groin, between the buttocks, and around the anus.
Eczema refers to a group of inflammatory skin diseases. The most common category of eczema is atopic dermatitis that typically develops in childhood but can also occur in adults. Atopic dermatitis is different from contact dermatitis as it can cause an itchy, bumpy rash even without coming into contact with an external antigen.
It is believed that genetics, an overactive immune system, or environmental factors causing flare-ups, play a role in the development of eczema. Otherwise, there is no known cause of it.
Symptoms of penile eczema include:
- Scaly, dry skin
- Painful or sore skin
- Brown, purple, gray, or ashen skin in darker skin tones
- Red skin in lighter skin tones
- Tight feeling skin
Any man who suspects he has penile eczema, should not self-diagnosis his skin condition. To get an accurate diagnosis, men should see a doctor to rule out any other underlying conditions such as a sexually transmitted infection.
Since one of the possible causes of eczema is an overactive immune system, inflammation leading to an inflammatory response can trigger it. Another trigger is irritation of the penis which includes:
- Tight clothing
- Friction from skin rubbing together
- Soaps and body washes
- Body wipes
- Hemorrhoid creams
- Urine and feces
- Latex allergy
- Waxing and shaving products
- Prolonged time in water
When a flare-up occurs, the skin on the penis may feel rough and tight, with a scaly, dry or flaky appearance.
Many people may wonder if eczema is contagious – it is not, including eczema on the penis. Couples do not have to be worried about eczema on the penis spreading through sexual intercourse or coming into direct skin-to-skin contact with the penis.
But, men who have a flare-up of eczema on their penis may find sexual intercourse to be uncomfortable. While eczema cannot be transmitted to anyone else, if a man has any blisters, broken skin, sores, or bleeding, it could indicate an increased risk of a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection which can be spread through unprotected sex.
Treating and healing eczema on the penis
There are several home remedies men can use to treat and heal penile eczema. They include:
- Keeping the genital area clean but avoid washing too much causing further irritation.
- Uncircumcised men should pull back the foreskin in order to wash the head of the penis
- Wash with warm water and an emollient soap
- Avoid soaps, antiseptic washes, moist tissue wipes, bubble bath, deodorant, cologne or perfume, fragrance or any other product irritating and drying out the skin
- Only use over-the-counter or prescription medications your doctor recommends. Avoid self-medicating since some treatments can contain potentially allergenic and irritant ingredients. Your doctor will prescribe emollients and topical steroids to treat genital and perianal eczema.
- Make sure to use good hand hygiene when using emollients and topical steroids – always wash your hands before and after applying treatments.
- If itching from eczema is a problem, consult with your doctor for what they recommend.
- Avoid scratching in the genital area as much as possible. Besides eczema, itching in the genital area may also occur due to yeast infections or STIs, which can cause intense itching and invariably make eczema worse.
- To prevent friction and lessen irritation, wear comfortable, loose cotton clothing. For example, wearing loose-fitting underwear of 100% cotton or silk will be more comfortable.
- Once eczema has cleared up, it’s important to continue to keep the area clean, dry and moisturized on a daily basis.
Penile eczema can be treated and controlled, but as with all types of eczema it is often a long-term condition with no cure. Only use products prescribed by your doctor or dermatologist, and keep appointments with them in order for the condition to be monitored and treatments changed if necessary.