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Reviewed by Ruthann Cunningham, MD, July 21, 2017
The appearance of a rash on the penis
can create concern about possible STD exposure, but the reality
is that there are many different causes for penile rashes.
Rashes are often accompanied by itching,
and both can be caused by
allergic reaction to a detergent or soap
used in the groin area, or infection by a
sexually transmitted or
non-sexually transmitted organism.
Among the most common causes for rashes on the penis or in the groin are are:
Jock itch (a fungal infection)
Contact dermatitis (irritation caused by
exposure to a certain chemical or material)
Different causes will produce slightly different symptoms, but
there can be some overlap. For example, an itchy rash caused by a
jock itch in the groin (also known as
tinea cruris) typically appears as a
large, red, raised, itchy patch with flaking skin and uneven
borders that advances over the inner thighs, but rarely involves
the testicles. Contact dermatitis,
another common cause of penile rashes,
can also appear as a red, itchy, uneven rash.
Yeast infections can present in a similar
fashion, but can also produce a whitish
film on top of the rash's red base. Psoriasis
is a skin condition that produces itchy
red, scaly, thickened patches of skin, and can affect the penis, groin,
and other body areas.
STDs and penile rash
Conditions that can be transmitted sexually (scabies, pubic lice,
syphilis, herpes viruses, etc) can also produce rashes on the penis.
is caused by mites that burrow into the skin.
Burrows appear as tiny grey irregular tracks
on the penis, between the fingers, on the wrists, in armpits, on the buttocks,
etc. The rash caused by scabies appears as tiny, red itchy bumps on the
limbs and trunk.
Pubic lice can produce what
appears to be a rash (tiny, red spots)
which are actually bite marks produced when the lice feed. In
addition, live lice may be seen moving in the pubic hair.Primary syphilis
produces a red, painless ulcer on the penis or
but secondary syphilis can become
more widespread, causing raw, red mucosal
surfaces (in the genital area, inside the mouth, throat, and anus).
In addition, syphilis can produce greyish-white moist, raised
patches in the groin, inner thighs, and armpits.Genital herpes outbreaks are
typified by clusters of small, fluid-filled
blisters that eventually burst and become red and scaly. These outbreaks
are typically accompanied by pain or a burning sensation.
Just because you have a penile rash doesn't mean you necessarily have an
STD. In addition, STDs don't always produce symptoms, so you can't be
assured that you are "STD free" just because you're not experiencing
symptoms. If you're sexually active and have never been tested, or have had
a new partner since your last STD test, it's important to get tested to
determine your status.