What causes red spots on the penis?

In many cases basic antibiotics can be used to treat chancroid.

When left untreated, chancroid can grow into a more severe, hard to treat infection.

Talk to a doctor or health care provider as soon as possible after having chancroid symptoms.

Genital eczema

People with genital eczema may experience the following symptoms:

  • severe itchiness
  • sore skin
  • a red rash on the penis or genitals

People should see a doctor to check if they have genital eczema or a specific disease.

Treatment may include topical steroids or emollients that people may use to wash instead of their normal soap.

Some skin care products, such as shower gel, antiseptic solutions, and hemorrhoid creams, can irritate the genital skin and cause eczema. Even the laundry detergent they use to wash their clothes can cause eczema in some people. Sweating and friction from tight clothing are possible causes, too.

Genital eczema can sometimes be triggered by touch allergy which in some cases can trigger spermicides and latex condoms.

Avoiding harsh cleaning products during care and wearing loose clothing can help relieve symptoms.

Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), which can cause the development of red sores on the penis and genital area.

People may not have any symptoms, or the symptoms may only be very mild. Red blisters are the most serious symptoms of genital herpes. Such blisters can appear on and around the genitals and sometimes they may burst, leaving sores behind.

People may also experience flu-like symptoms during an herpes outbreak, such as aches, a fever, and swollen glands.

Herpes is not curable, but people may take medication to prevent blister outbreaks and lessen the chances of transmitting the infection to sexual partners.

Genital psoriasis

A man buying cream
To treat red spots on the penis, only try medication or skin care products that are safe for use in the genital region.

Genital psoriasis is a psoriasis that shows up on the genitals everywhere. Inverse or plaque psoriasis on the tip or shaft of the penis can appear as small, red patches.

Treatment options can include:

  • corticosteroids
  • coal tar — mild strength only
  • calcipotriene cream

Individuals should only use pharmaceutical products specifically for genital use. Using generic psoriasis cream on the genitals may damage this part of the body’s delicate skin.

Genital psoriasis is not infectious so individuals may want to wait before having sex if the skin feels sore.

Washing the penis before and after having sex can help prevent discomfort by adding a moisturizer to sensitive skin.

Balanitis

Balanitis is an inflammation of the tip, or glans, of the penis. Symptoms of balanitis include:

  • inflammation of the glans
  • a rash, which appears as blotchy red or purple patches on the glans or under the foreskin
  • discharge, which may smell
  • itchiness or discomfort

Balanitis can happen due to:

  • a yeast infection
  • certain STIs, such as herpes
  • soaps or spermicides that irritate the skin
  • skin conditions, including psoriasis

Diabetes can also induce balanitis when it induces excess sugar in the urine, which can promote bacterial growth in the glans and under the prepuce.

The type of treatment will depend on what is causing balanitis. Options may include:

  • antifungal cream to treat a yeast infection
  • antibiotics for a bacterial infection
  • keeping the area clean and dry to reduce inflammation

Practicing good hygiene and cleaning will help reduce the risk of balanitis under the foreskin.

Syphilis

Syphilis is an STI capable of causing red sores on and around the penis. There are four stages of syphilis, each with distinct symptoms:

  • Primary syphilis: Round, firm, often painless sores around the genitals, anus, or mouth.
  • Secondary syphilis: A rash on the body, swollen glands, a fever, and fatigue.
  • Latent stage: No symptoms.
  • Tertiary syphilis: Infection spreads to the nervous system and internal organs.

It’s important that people seek syphilis treatment. It can cause serious health problems without treatment, and can even be life-threatening.

Antibiotics can cure syphilis but it is not immune to some of the damage it does.

Scabies

Scabies mites cause the skin to become scabies when they infest. Individuals can get scabies by touching someone who has the infestation, including during sexual intercourse, skin-to-skin.

Scabies may lead to itchy rash appearing on the penis. The rash can look like tiny pimples, scales, or blisters, and nighttime scratching can be especially severe.

Scabies mites dig burrows below skin layers to lay their eggs. They appear on the surface of the skin as raised, white, or skin-colored lines.

A doctor can prescribe drugs called scabicides for scabies to kill the mites. People can apply scabicides topically around their bodies, usually downwards from the neck.

Jock itch

Jock itch is a fungal infection that causes itchiness on the penis, and a red rash. It can spread to the rest of the genital region, buttocks and thighs inside. Individuals in the groin area too may experience a burning sensation.

Topical antifungal creams, like jock itch, can aid to treat fungal infections. If these are not successful and the infection persists, a doctor may need to be contacted for stronger oral medicines.

Maintaining good health and wearing loose clothes in hot weather can also help in treating symptoms

Molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral infection which causes raised spots on the penis or genitals to appear red, pink, or skin-colored.

The only symptom of molluscum contagiosum is those bumps on the flesh. Usually, they’re not painful but they may be itchy.

The virus can easily pass by direct contact between skin and skin, and it thrives in hot and humid climates.

For example, people with a weakened immune system, those living with HIV or receiving treatment for cancer, may get more severe cases of mollusc contagiosum.

Treatment can help remove the bumps and avoid the spread of the virus, but it’s not always successful. Over time, the bumps often go away untreated.

Possibilities for treating mollusc contagiosum include:

  • freezing the bumps off
  • using laser therapy to remove the bumps
  • applying topical medication to destroy the bumps

Drug rashes

Some medicines may cause an allergic reaction causing rashes to certain areas of the body.

For example, ingredients in some antibiotics can cause Stevens-Johnson syndrome that can spread to other areas of the body, leading to the formation of blisters on the penis.

Prescription rashes usually clear up as soon as people avoid taking the drug. Nonetheless, people may need to take another medicine to help clear the rash, such as a corticosteroid or an antihistamines.

Rashes and allergic drug reactions can cause severe symptoms, so if a person feels a rash on their body after taking a new drug, they should see their doctor.

Bowenoid papulosis

One type of human papillomavirus, which is an STI, will cause Bowenoid papulosis. It shows up on the penis or anus as small red, brown, or purple spots.

Bowenoid papulosis can often clear up on its own within a few months, but care may be required by some individuals. Therapy choices include:

  • topical cream
  • laser surgery
  • cryosurgery, which uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the unhealthy tissue

In rare cases, Bowenoid papulosis can lead to Bowen disease, which is an early form of penile cancer.

People with Bowenoid papulosis should see their doctor if the condition does not improve with treatment.

Prevention

Practicing good hygiene by regularly washing the penis and changing clothes after exercise or when the weather is hot will help reduce the risk of infection.

Those with an uncircumcised penis should also be careful to clean under the foreskin to avoid the build-up of bacteria.

Using a condom during intercourse can help reduce the risk of contracting STIs and passing them on.

Summary

There are many potential root spot triggers on the penis, most of which are highly treatable.

If red spots on the penis don’t go away, people should see a doctor, the spots cause severe itchiness or discomfort, or there are signs of infection.

Anyone who develops a rapidly spreading rash, happens alongside fever or starts blistering should seek immediate medical help.

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