Itchy Penis: 7 Common Causes & How to Treat It

Updated in August 2023

An itchy penis is a common symptom of balanitis, which is a condition associated with inflammation at the head of the penis.

This penile itchiness and swelling is commonly caused by by skin irritation, lack of hygiene, or constant genital moisture, which are generally easy to manage. However, penis itching with moderate inflammation can be a sign of a more serious problem, like a fungal infection, skin problem or sexually transmitted infection. 

If you experience an itchy penis for longer than a week, or if itching does not improve with more thorough genital hygiene, you should see a doctor for assessment and treatment as needed. 

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Some of the most common causes of an itchy penis are:

1. Irritation

Skin irritation is one of the most common and least serious causes of an itchy penis. It can occur from direct contact with certain soaps, condoms or clothing. Certain fabrics can trigger irritation and itching, like synthetic fabrics. 

How to treat: It is important to identify what is causing the allergy to avoid contact with that substance. You should opt for cotton-based underwear and use natural or mild soaps in the genital region. If you suspect you have an allergy to latex, you should avoid using latex-based condoms.

2. Poor hygiene

Lack of hygiene can lead to an accumulation of dirt and sweat in the skin beneath the foreskin, which makes a great breeding ground of bacteria and fungus. This can result in infection and inflammation, which can cause itching. 

This type of problem is more common in non-circumcised men, but any man can be susceptible. 

How to treat: It is important to cleanse the genital area at least once per day, as this area sweats easily and is an area that is prone to the accumulation of dead skin cells. To cleanse the area correctly, you should retract the foreskin to clean and rinse.

3. Yeast infection

Although they are more frequent in women, yeast infections are one of the most common causes of itching in men. It occurs due to the excessive growth of Candida albicansfungus along the shaft. 

This fungus almost always accumulates due to lack of hygiene, but it can also be a sign of diabetes or an autoimmune disease, like HIV for example. Learn more about the symptoms and causes of yeast infections in men

How to treat: In most cases, yeast infections are treated with a 7-day course of antifungal ointment like miconazole or clotrimazole. Oral medication can also be used, and diet changes, like reducing sugar and carb intake, may also be recommended. Learn about the prescription treatments and natural options available to treat yeast infections.

4. Psoriasis

Men who have been diagnosed with psoriasis are also at risk for experiencing symptoms in their genital area. This problem may not affect the skin on the shaft; symptoms may present on just the penile glands. Common symptoms may include intense itching, red or bright pink plaques that can be scratched off, or red spots. Learn more about the symptoms associated with genital psoriasis.

How to treat: Ideally you should maintain the genital region clean and dry to prevent skin irritation. When cleansing, you should opt to use cold water. Home remedies, like applying cold chamomile tea compresses can also help to relieve symptoms of irritation. Learn about how diet can affect psoriasis and which food can help to treat a flare-up.

5. Pubic lice

This type of lice can cause irritation in the genital area that results in constant itching around the penis. Pubic live can be transmitted through sexual contact, or by sharing contaminated towels, bed linens, underwear or other objects. 

How to treat: The best way to treat public lice is to shave the pubic hair, as lice will live within the hair shafts and not on the skin. Other options include treatment with medicated sprays and lotions, which can be prescribed by the doctor or purchased over-the-counter at the pharmacy. 

6. HPV

One of the most common symptoms of HPV is the emergence of warts in the genital area. Other symptoms may include itching or redness.

HPV is transmitted through unprotected sexual contact. In some cases, symptoms may not even manifest, and the infection can resolve without any treatment. However, in some cases, genital warts can appear months or years after the initial exposure to the virus. Many men may have HPV without even knowing it. Learn more about how HPV is transmitted and other symptoms associated with it. 

How to treat: There is no specific treatment available to cure HPV, as it is usually eliminated by the body. However, resolution may take a few years. To prevent transmission and re-infection, removing the warts or lesions with cauterization, cryotherapy or ointments/gels may be necessary. 

7. Chlamydia

Although almost all sexually transmitted infections can cause itching and penile discomfort, chlamydia is the STI that most commonly starts off with itching, followed by urethral discharge. 

Men who engage in protected sex, whether it is vaginal, anal or oral, should perform STI testing regularly to determine whether they are infected and require treatment. 

How to treat: If you are positive for chlamydia, you should use a prescription antibiotic, like azithromycin and doxycycline. You should inform your sexual partner so that they also seek treatment. 

8. Lichen nitidus

Lichen nitidus is a chronic skin inflammation that can affect the genital skin, as well as the abdomen, chest and areas with skin folds. This condition typically presents with skin-colored blisters that are itchy and uncomfortable. 

How to treat: Generally, blisters from lichen nitidus resolve within a few months. However, your doctor may recommend treatment with topical or oral corticosteroids to help relieve itchiness and other symptoms, as well as improve the skin's appearance.