Eczema on Penis
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What is penis eczema?
Penis eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a condition that causes the skin on your penis to become dry, discolored, itchy and bumpy. It may appear anywhere on your penis, including the head (glans), shaft or foreskin.
Eczema damages the skin barrier function (the “glue” of your skin). As a result, your skin becomes more sensitive and more prone to infection and dryness.
Can you get eczema on your private parts?
Any part of your skin can develop eczema, including your genitals.
Who does penis eczema affect?
Penis eczema can affect anyone with a penis. However, it’s more common in people with:
- A personal or family history of eczema.
- Environmental allergies.
- Hay fever (allergic rhinitis).
How common is this condition?
Eczema is very common. Approximately 15% to 30% of children have eczema, and 2% to 10% of adults have it. But eczema on your penis is very uncommon. More common causes of penile dermatitis include contact dermatitis and psoriasis.
How does eczema on the penis affect my body?
Eczema can affect your skin anywhere, so you may see a similar dermatitis somewhere else. Your skin will itch and likely change color, develop bumps, dry out or get thick.
In severe cases of eczema on your penis, your skin may crack or leak a thick, yellow or white fluid. This may be a sign of infection, so see your provider if you see discharge.
Symptoms and Causes
What are the symptoms of penis eczema?
Symptoms of eczema on your penis include:
- Itchy skin.
- Dry skin.
- Discolored rashes.
- Bumps on your skin.
- Leathery patches of skin.
- Crusty skin.
Eczema doesn’t hurt. However, if you scratch eczema on your penis, you may break your skin, leading to discomfort or possibly a painful infection.
What causes eczema on the penis?
Eczema can develop anywhere on your skin, including your penis. A combination of immune system activation, genetics, environmental triggers and stress can cause it.
- Immune system: If you have eczema anywhere on your body, your immune system overreacts to minor irritants or allergens. This overreaction can inflame your skin.
- Genetics: You’re more likely to have eczema on your penis if you have a personal or family history of eczema. You’re also at a higher risk if you have a personal or family history of hay fever, asthma and allergies. Allergens cause allergies. Allergens include substances like pollen, pet hair or foods that trigger an allergic reaction.
- Environment: Allergens in your environment can cause a reaction on the skin of your penis. Some examples include soaps, skin care products and desensitizing gels or lubricants that delay climax (orgasm). If you have a latex allergy, using latex condoms during sex can cause allergic dermatitis or eczema on your penis. Irritating fabrics like wool, abnormally low or high humidity in the air and sweat can trigger other types of penile dermatitis. If you have a flare-up that looks like eczema on your penis after coming into contact with an irritant, you may have contact dermatitis.
- Stress: Your stress levels can cause or worsen eczema anywhere on your body.
Is penis eczema contagious?
Eczema isn’t contagious. You can’t spread eczema on your penis to another person through skin-to-skin contact, so you don’t need to take extra steps to protect your partner during sex. However, you may feel discomfort during sex if you’re experiencing a flare-up.
If you scratch eczema on your penis, you may break your skin, which can lead to infections. Infections in or on your penis can spread to your partner through skin-to-skin contact during unprotected sex. If you have a penis infection, contact your healthcare provider for care. Either avoid having sex or use condoms until you’ve completed your full treatment.
Diagnosis and Tests
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine your skin. They’ll look for common signs of eczema, including discoloration and dryness. They’ll also ask about your medical and family medical history.
What tests will be done to diagnose eczema on the penis?
Your healthcare provider can typically diagnose eczema on your penis after a physical exam. If there’s a concern that the rash could be something contagious or more serious, they may perform the following tests:
- An allergy skin test.
- Blood tests to check for causes of a rash that might be unrelated to eczema on your penis.
- A skin biopsy to distinguish one type of dermatitis from another.
Management and Treatment
How is eczema on the penis treated?
To get rid of eczema on your penis, it’s important to determine what’s causing it. Try to determine what triggers or worsens your eczema, and then avoid it. The goal is to reduce itching and discomfort and prevent infection and additional flare-ups.
The following home remedies may relieve eczema on your penis:
- Avoid common allergens, including latex, pollen, chemicals and jewelry made of nickel, cobalt or copper.
- Moisturize your skin using a cream or ointment. Lotions usually don’t work as well. Apply several times a day, including after your bath or shower. Moisturizers help trap moisture in the skin.
- Use mild soaps that are free of perfumes, dyes and alcohol. Look for products labeled “fragrance-free,” “hypoallergenic” or “for sensitive skin.”
- Avoid wearing tight underwear and pants.
- Use mild laundry soap and thoroughly rinse your clothes.
If these treatments don’t help or the rash is getting worse, contact your provider.
Do I have to watch what I eat/drink if I have eczema on my penis?
The connection between eczema on your penis and food/drink allergies is unclear. If you have food allergies, you should follow your provider’s suggestions for avoiding foods to be sure you don’t have a serious allergic reaction. Examples of common food allergens include peanuts, dairy, eggs and gluten.
If eczema flares up on your penis after you interact with a particular food, then you might be allergic to it. This may happen after eating the food or if you touch the food and then touch your penis.
What medications/treatments are used to treat eczema on the penis?
Your healthcare provider may prescribe or advise you to take medications or treatments to treat eczema on your penis. These may include:
- Hydrocortisone cream or ointment. Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid. It decreases inflammation and relieves itching and discoloration. Using steroids on your genitals can cause complications, so don’t use hydrocortisone cream or ointment on your genitals without first talking to your provider.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines. Antihistamines relieve and can prevent severe itching.
- Prescription medications. Steroid creams, pills or shots relieve symptoms. A provider may consider them for severe eczema, but they’re not likely to prescribe them for penile eczema.
- Petroleum jelly. Petroleum jelly (Vaseline™) or skin care ointments (Aquaphor™) moisturize and protect your affected skin. They’re hypoallergenic and can help heal your skin.
How soon after treatment will I feel better?
With proper treatment, eczema on your penis should go away after a few days to weeks. However, no treatment can claim to eliminate the symptoms of eczema 100% of the time. You may encounter flare-ups on your penis for the rest of your life. If you determine the cause of your eczema, you may be able to prevent flare-ups from happening.
How can I reduce my risk of developing eczema on my penis?
There are steps you can take that may prevent eczema or other dermatitis flares:
- Establish a skin care routine, and follow your healthcare professional’s recommendations for keeping your skin healthy.
- Avoid wool and silk, which can dry out your skin.
- Use a mild soap for your bath or shower, and pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it. Apply a moisturizing cream or ointment immediately after patting dry to help seal in the remaining moisture. Reapply cream or ointment two to three times a day.
- Take baths or showers with lukewarm water, not hot water.
- Drink at least eight glasses of water each day. Water helps keep your skin moist.
- Avoid sudden changes in temperature and humidity.
- Limit your exposure to known irritants and allergens.
- Avoid scratching or rubbing your irritated skin.
Outlook / Prognosis
What can I expect if I have eczema on my penis?
If you have eczema on your penis, it can generally be well-managed with good skin care and effective treatment of flares. However, it may come back throughout your life.
Can eczema on the penis be cured?
Eczema is a chronic condition, which means there isn’t a cure. However, treatments are very effective in reducing the symptoms of dry, itchy skin.
How do I take care of myself?
There will be times when eczema on your penis disappears. These times are “remission” periods. The goal of a good skin care routine is to keep your skin healthy and avoid flare-ups. Be sure to avoid anything that triggers eczema on your penis, moisturize, take any recommended medicines and follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations.
When should I see my healthcare provider?
Eczema on your penis shares some symptoms with sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so it’s important to see your healthcare provider as soon as you notice symptoms. Don’t have sex with anyone unless you wear a condom until you’re sure you’re not contagious.
What questions should I ask my doctor?
- How can you tell that I have eczema on my penis?
- If I don’t have eczema on my penis, what other skin condition, STD or STI might I have?
- Is it safe for me to have sex?
- Is there a specific brand of moisturizer that you recommend?
- Should I see a dermatologist or another specialist?
- What soaps, lotions and other skin care products should I avoid?
- What medications do you recommend?
- What at-home treatments do you recommend?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Eczema on your penis is uncommon, but it can be embarrassing and annoying. If you experience dry skin, a rash or itching on your penis, talk to your healthcare provider. Creams, ointments and medications can treat eczema on your penis. With a proper skin care routine and treatment, you can reduce the frequency of flare-ups. Eczema on your penis can’t spread to a partner through skin-to-skin contact, but you might want to avoid having sex or use a condom to prevent discomfort.
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