Managing Eczema on the Penis and Around the Genitals

Eczema is a common condition that causes the skin to become red, inflamed, and itchy. About 10% of people have eczema. Despite how common it is, many people don’t realize that males and females can experience eczema on their genitals; this can present as eczema on the penis or vulva.

Many people are likely hesitant to talk about genital eczema, but one study found that 45% of people with eczema have experienced an outbreak on their genitals. 

Although the condition can be embarrassing, it’s important to recognize that you’re not alone in dealing with it. Genital eczema can be treated, and it’s safe to have sex even if you have eczema on your penis or vulva.

This article discusses the symptoms, causes, and treatment of eczema on the penis.

man in underwear

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 Types of Genital Eczema 

 There are seven different types of eczema, four of which can appear on the genitals. They are:

  • Atopic dermatitis: Atopic dermatitis, or AD, is a chronic form of eczema that begins in childhood and comes and goes throughout a person’s life. It is characterized by a dry, itchy rash that appears purple, gray, brown, or red. Scientists believe that AD is caused by an overactive immune system.
  • Contact dermatitis: Contact dermatitis occurs when your skin comes into contact with an allergen or irritant. It is characterized by itching, blistering, or burning. Certain washes, lubricants, and fabrics can cause contact dermatitis in the genitals.  
  • Neurodermatitis: This type of eczema is characterized by small patches that are intensely itchy. Although neurodermatitis occurs more often in women than in men, it can occur on the penis and can be made worse by tight clothing.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: Seborrheic dermatitis is a type of eczema that occurs in oily areas of the skin, including in the groin. It is linked to having too much yeast on the skin and is characterized by red, swollen, and greasy scales on the skin.

 Frequent Symptoms 

The most common symptom of eczema on the penis is itching. You might also notice changes to the appearance of your skin. These symptoms indicate that you might have genital eczema:

  • Persistent itching 
  • Swelling or inflammation
  • Redness on the skin. This may appear purple or gray on darker skin tones. 
  • Blisters 
  • Odor

Many of these symptoms can mimic other conditions, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and yeast infections. Because of that, it’s important to see a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis of eczema. Although this might be uncomfortable for you, it’s essential to make sure you’re not dealing with a more serious condition like an STI.

Causes and Risk Factors 

Most types of eczema—including eczema on the penis—are caused by an overreaction of the immune system. There’s little that you can do to address this underlying cause of eczema. However, there are secondary conditions that can increase your risk for eczema on the penis. These include:

  • Incontinence: If you have trouble controlling your bladder, urine can irritate your skin and cause an eczema outbreak.
  • Hair removal: Waxing or shaving the genitals can contribute to irritation.
  • Tight clothing: Tight clothing, including underwear, can make eczema worse. 

In general, people with any of the following conditions are more likely to have eczema:

 When to See a Healthcare Provider

Eczema should always be diagnosed by a healthcare provider. Although it’s tempting to try to treat your eczema at home, seeing a medical professional is especially important if you have genital eczema.

Eczema on the penis can look like other conditions including STIs or a yeast infection. A healthcare provider will be able to give you a proper diagnosis and connect you with the treatment you need. 

Seeing a healthcare provider can also help prevent further complications.

Having eczema can cause your skin to crack. This removes some of the protective functions of the skin and can put you at increased risk of infection. Because of that, people who have eczema are more likely to have infections including herpes and staph infection.

The following symptoms can indicate an infection. If you have them, reach out to your medical provider immediately:

  • Pus-filled bumps or a rash that is moist or weepy
  • Skin that feels warm or hot
  • Areas of the skin that are red, swollen and painful to touch

Mental Health Complications

People with genital eczema say that the condition takes a toll on their quality of life.

Speak to a healthcare provider. They will be able to make suggestions to help you maintain your quality of life even with this chronic condition.  

 Treatment

Eczema is a chronic condition, meaning that it comes and goes throughout a lifetime and is not often cured. However, both over-the-counter and prescription medications can help treat eczema. 

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medication

Over-the-counter medications are effective at treating eczema. However, since the skin on the penis is particularly sensitive, it’s always a good idea to talk to a healthcare provider or pharmacist before using over-the-counter treatments on your penis.

Common over-the-counter treatments for eczema include:

  • Lotions: Keeping your skin hydrated can help reduce itching. Avoid lotions that have scent or harsh chemicals. 
  • Steroid creams: Steroid creams sold over-the-counter can help alleviate symptoms. Hydrocortisone cream is a low-potency steroid cream that is safe for the penis. 
  • Antihistamines: Antihistamines won’t treat your eczema, but they can help reduce itching.
  • Emollients: Emollients are substances that hydrate the skin. You can use an emollient soap alternative for washing and apply an emollient cream, like Aquaphor, directly to your penis. 

Prescription Medications

In addition to over-the-counter medications, a healthcare provider might prescribe medicines to treat your genital eczema.

These prescription treatments may include:

  • Topical steroids: Prescription steroid creams are more powerful than steroid creams sold over-the-counter. These are often used for genital eczema since the skin on the penis is able to absorb them well.
  • Oral steroids: Oral steroids can help if topical steroids are not enough.
  • Antibiotics: Often given in a cream that also contains steroids, antibiotics can help reduce the risk of infection or treat an infection that has already occurred. 

Home Remedies and Lifestyle

Although it’s critical to seek treatment for eczema, there are also steps you can take at home to keep your eczema under control. In general, wearing loose-fitting clothing, avoiding chemicals or irritants, and moisturizing the skin can all help alleviate eczema symptoms. 

 The following remedies and lifestyle adjustments can help you manage eczema on the penis:

  • Wear loose-fitting, 100% cotton underwear. This allows airflow to your genitals and is less likely to cause irritation.
  • Wash your underwear in hot water to kill any contaminants.
  • Wash the genitals with warm water. Avoid soap and other harsh or scented substances.
  • If you have a genital piercing, use only high-quality jewelry. Nickel, found in cheaper jewelry, can trigger eczema.
  • Take an oatmeal bath for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Press a cool, damp cloth onto the skin that is itchy.

Prevention

If you have contact dermatitis on your penis, it can be helpful to keep a journal of when flare-ups occur. Over time, this will help you identify the trigger for your eczema so you can avoid it. 

Intimacy Tips 

It is perfectly safe to have sex when you have eczema on your penis.

Since eczema is not contagious, you don’t need to worry about passing it to your partner. However, if the outbreak is new, it’s important to see a healthcare provider first to ensure that this is, in fact, eczema, and not an STI that you could pass to your partner. 

People with eczema on their penis should practice safe sex, especially since cracks in the skin caused by eczema can increase your risk of STIs. It’s perfectly safe to use a condom or other barrier contraceptive during sex, as long as you do not have a latex allergy.

However, there are some things to keep in mind about having sex with eczema on your penis:

  • Certain ointments can reduce how effective condoms are, so be sure that any creams you use on your penis are absorbed completely before you start having sex. This is especially important if you’re using topical steroids to make sure you don't pass them to your partner. 
  • It is safe to use lubricants and contraceptives. Of course, if you find these make your eczema worse, talk with your doctor about other options. 
  • Both spermicides and semen can irritate the skin, so avoid spermicide and wash the penis with warm water after sex to reduce irritation from semen. 

One of the biggest challenges of having sex with genital eczema can be starting an open and honest conversation with your partner.

Before you start having sex, tell your partner what is going on. Let them know that you’re in contact with your doctor, and that sex with eczema is safe. If your doctor diagnosed you with STIs, let your partner know. You should also tell your partner if there are any ways in which they should not touch you because of your eczema. 

A Word From Verywell

Any time you have a rash on your penis, it can be cause for concern. Not only are rashes physically uncomfortable, but they can be embarrassing as well, especially when they’re on your genitals.

If you’re one of the 10% of Americans who have eczema, it’s important to recognize that you have about a 45% chance of experiencing eczema on your penis. Although that can be alarming, there is good news: Eczema on the penis can be easily controlled with topical treatments, and it’s still perfectly safe to have sex and use contraceptives even with eczema.

 Frequently Asked Questions 

Can you get eczema on your penis?

Yes, it is possible to have eczema on your penis. About 45% of people who have eczema have experienced eczema on their genitals. In males, genital eczema can occur on the penis, testicles, anus, and the surrounding areas.

 Can you have sex with eczema on your penis?

Yes, it is safe to have sex with eczema on your penis. Eczema is not contagious, so you do not need to worry about passing it to your partner. You can still use condoms and lube even if you have eczema on your penis.

What relieves symptoms of genital eczema quickly?

It’s always best to speak to a healthcare provider about the best treatment for genital eczema. However, if you need relief from itching quickly, there are steps you can take at home, including having an oatmeal bath or applying a cool compress to the affected area. Taking an antihistamine won’t treat eczema, but it can help relieve the itchiness that you feel. 

Is genital eczema an STD or STI?

Genital eczema is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or sexually transmitted infection (STI). In fact, since eczema is not contagious, it cannot be passed between partners. However, the appearance of genital eczema—which can include red, swollen skin, blisters, and a rash—is similar to the appearance of many STIs or STDs.

Is genital eczema contagious?

Genital eczema is not contagious. However, if you have a rash on your genitals, you should always see a healthcare provider to rule out contagious infections like herpes.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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