Bacteria, fungi , and viruses may all cause the penis to become infected. Penis infections can vary from conditions that are mild and easily treatable to serious or chronic diseases.
We address the causes, signs, and treatments of various penis infections in this article. We also offer advice on when medical care should be obtained.
Balanitis, posthitis, and balanoposthitis
Balanitis, known as the glans, refers to inflammation of the head of the penis. The inflammation of the prepuce or prepuce is defined by posthitis. Balanoposthitis is where there is both balanitis and posthitis.
These conditions usually arise from irritation, trauma, or infection. Balanitis ‘s infectious causes include:
Penile yeast infection
Yeast infections are caused by a form of fungus called Candida. The most common species of Candida is Candida albicans (C. albicans). Candida balanitis, candidiasis, and thrush are other names for a penile yeast infection.
Streptococcus, or strep, is a group of bacteria. There are two main types: alpha (α)-hemolytic streptococci and beta (β)-hemolytic streptococci. Beta-hemolytic streptococci can further be split into two groups: group A and group B streptococci.
Streptococcus species are the most common bacterial cause of balanitis, according to a 2018 book.
Diagnosing balanitis, posthitis, and balanoposthitis
With a physical examination, a physician may diagnose balanitis. They will look for swelling and redness of the glans, foreskin, or both.
In order to determine the underlying infection, they can then order the following diagnostic tests:
- swab culture from the glans
- blood test
Treatments for balanitis, posthitis, and balanoposthitis
Balanitis treatment depends on the underlying cause.
Penile yeast infections are treated by a doctor with topical antifungal agents, such as miconazole, imidazole, and clotrimazole. If there are serious yeast infections all over the body, they may prescribe an oral antifungal, called fluconazole.
Oral antibiotics are important for treating Staphylococcus infections, such as erythromycin, penicillin, and ampicillin. Oral and topical antibiotics, such as mupirocin, can be combined by a physician.
Pthiriasis refers to an infestation of Phthirus pubis or pubic lice. Pubic lice, such as pubic hair, are parasitic insects living on coarse body hair. Pthiriasis spreads by sexual contact or contact with clothes, sheets, or bedding that has been infested.
Symptoms of pthiriasis include:
- persistent or severe itching in the genital region
- red, swollen, tender skin
- visible lice eggs, larvae, or adult lice
- black flecks in underwear
- spots of dried blood on the skin on or near the groin
Pthiriasis may be diagnosed by a doctor by removing adult lice or lice eggs from pubic hair. Under a microscope, they can examine a hair sample and check for lice eggs and other signs of parasitic infestation.
If the infestation is relatively mild, a doctor can physically remove the lice and lice eggs.
Over-the-counter ( OTC) ointments containing permethrin, pyrethrin, or piperonyl butoxide are effective against infestations of pubic lice. A doctor can prescribe a medicated shampoo that kills adult lice and their eggs, called lindane.
With hot water and detergent, people can also wash their clothes, bedding, and towels. Drying high-heat laundry also helps destroy lice and eggs.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Sexually transmitted infections ( STIs) refer to infections that, through sexual contact, transfer between people. In men, not all STIs lead to visible symptoms. If symptoms do arise, they can include:
- pain or burning during urination or ejaculation
- a frequent need to urinate
- abnormal or foul-smelling discharge from the penis
- swelling in one or both testicles
- painful blisters or sores
- sore throat
- muscle aches
- swollen lymph nodes
Examples of STIs include:
- hepatitis B
- herpes simplex virus (HSV)
- human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- human papillomavirus (HPV) or genital warts
Healthcare providers diagnose STIs with the following methods:
- blood tests
- cell cultures of samples collected from open sores or discharge
Treatments for STIs
Depending on the form of STI, treatment options differ.
Bacterial infections that typically need a single dose of medication or a 7-day course of antibiotics are chlamydia, gonorrhea , and syphilis. The whole course of prescription antibiotics should be completed by patients, even though their symptoms resolve within a couple of days. Doing this helps prevent diseases from returning.
There is no cure for such viral STIs, including hepatitis B, HIV, HPV, and herpes. Treatment focuses on symptom control and the prevention of future outbreaks. Antiviral drugs can help combat the virus and delay the development of the disease.
Without medical care, HPV warts can dissolve on their own. OTC ointments containing salicylic acid, however, can help remove warts.
To remove genital warts, a physician can prescribe one or more of the following treatments:
- laser therapy
- surgical removal
- prescription medication, including podofilox or podophyllin
When to see a doctor
A person should see their physician if they develop symptoms of a penis infection. This may include:
- fever or chills
- swelling, redness, or warmth of the foreskin or the head of the penis
- pain or itching on or near the genitals
- ulcers or raised patches of skin
- unusual discharge from the urethral opening
- foul-smelling pus under the foreskin
Infections of the penis can lead to painful symptoms which can interrupt the everyday life of a person. If they develop symptoms of a penis infection, such as redness , swelling, itching, or sores in the genital region , people should see a doctor.
Regular medical screenings for STIs should also be done by sexually active individuals, as many of them cause no visible symptoms in the early stages of infection.