Genital psoriasis is a condition that affects the skin on and around your genitals. It causes patches of painful, smooth or flaky, discolored and itchy skin. Genital psoriasis can look similar to a sexually transmitted infection, but it’s not contagious. Treatment is available to relieve your symptoms, but there’s no cure for psoriasis.
Genital psoriasis is a skin condition that affects the skin on or around your genitals. It’s a type of psoriasis. An overactive immune system causes patches of painful, smooth or flaky, discolored and itchy skin. Symptoms of genital psoriasis differ from psoriasis on other parts of your body because the skin patches are usually moist rather than dry and scaly, but they have the same cause.
Other names for genital psoriasis are:
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Psoriasis affects more than 3% of the United States population. More than half of all people diagnosed with psoriasis experience symptoms on or around their genitals at least once during their lifetime.
Several different types of psoriasis can affect your genital region. The most common types of psoriasis include:
Psoriasis and eczema are both skin conditions that can affect the skin on your genitals. The main differences between psoriasis and eczema on the genitals include:
While psoriasis can be itchy, eczema is usually itchier than psoriasis.
Symptoms of genital psoriasis include:
A main symptom of psoriasis is scaly or flaky skin caused by a buildup of dead skin cells. Because of the location of genital psoriasis, scales aren’t always present because of friction, where the area of affected skin rubs against skin or clothing. This prevents a buildup of scales and instead, creates a smooth surface.
As the name implies, genital psoriasis affects the genital region of your body, including:
A type of psoriasis, called pustular psoriasis, can cause blisters. This type of psoriasis can affect your genital or groin area and cause painful, pus-filled blisters on your skin. Pustular psoriasis isn’t contagious, but it can look similar to other sexually transmitted infections that affect your genitals. If you experience symptoms of pustular psoriasis, visit a healthcare provider.
Genital psoriasis is an autoimmune condition caused by an overactive immune system. Your immune system tells your healthy skin cells to replicate too soon, which causes inflammation and a buildup of dead skin cells on the surface of your skin. The exact reason why your immune system overreacts is unknown, but there might be a genetic factor that leads to a psoriasis diagnosis.
Contact with irritants and allergens can trigger symptoms of psoriasis on your skin. Triggers that can cause a flare-up of genital psoriasis include:
No. Genital psoriasis isn’t contagious. It doesn’t spread through physical contact with another person who has psoriasis.
Genital psoriasis isn’t a sexually transmitted infection. While friction from sexual contact can irritate your skin and cause a flare of symptoms, the condition doesn’t spread to your sexual partners.
A healthcare provider will diagnose genital psoriasis after a physical exam to review your symptoms. The appearance of symptoms on your skin usually leads to a diagnosis. Your provider might offer a skin biopsy if your symptoms appear similar to other conditions that affect the skin on and around your genitals.
You may choose to visit a dermatologist to diagnose and treat genital psoriasis.
Treatment for genital psoriasis is different from treating psoriasis on other parts of your body because your skin is thinner and more sensitive there. Your healthcare provider might recommend one of the following treatments:
Treatment for genital psoriasis is unique to everyone. The treatment that works for you might not work for someone else with similar symptoms.
Each topical medication has specific instructions for use and possible side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider before starting a new medication. They’ll discuss the side effects and review any medications you currently take to avoid drug interactions.
A flare-up of genital psoriasis symptoms can last for a couple of weeks to a few months. Psoriasis is a lifelong condition that can last indefinitely. The timeline for when it’ll go away depends on the type of treatment you and your provider choose. Medicated treatments help your symptoms go away sooner. Avoiding irritants and keeping your skin clean helps speed up your skin’s healing process.
You can’t prevent psoriasis, but you can reduce your risk of developing a flare-up of genital psoriasis symptoms by:
The genital region is a common place to have symptoms of psoriasis. Treatment is available to help you manage your symptoms. Psoriasis flares take several days to weeks to go away with treatment, but can come back after treatment, as it’s a chronic condition.
Some people who have a psoriasis diagnosis feel uncomfortable about how their symptoms affect their appearance or confidence level, especially in an intimate setting. Many find support by talking with a mental health professional.
Yes, you can have sex with genital psoriasis. If you choose to participate in sexual activities while you have a flare-up of genital psoriasis symptoms, use the following tips:
Visit your healthcare provider or your dermatologist if:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your genital area is a common location for a psoriasis flare up. While you may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable talking about where symptoms of psoriasis are, it’s important to discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider. Treatment is available to help you manage your symptoms and reduce the discomfort you might feel. Genital psoriasis isn’t contagious, so you can still be intimate. But use caution to avoid irritating your skin during sex.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/02/2023.
Learn more about our editorial process.