Various abnormalities can affect the skin of the penis. Some are bodywide skin disorders that affect the penis as well as other parts of the skin. Examples include psoriasis Psoriasis Psoriasis is a chronic, recurring disease that causes one or more raised, red patches that have silvery scales and a distinct border between the patch and normal skin. A problem with the immune... read more , lichen planus Lichen Planus Lichen planus, a recurring itchy disease, starts as a rash of small, separate, red or purple bumps that then combine and become rough, scaly patches. The cause is unknown but may be a reaction... read more , and seborrheic dermatitis Seborrheic Dermatitis Seborrheic dermatitis is chronic inflammation that causes yellow, greasy scales and dandruff to form on areas of the skin that have a high number of oil glands such as the scalp and face, along... read more . Some affect only the penis or affect the penis before they affect other areas. The skin of the penis can also be affected by cancer Penile Cancer Cancers of the penis are usually types of skin cancers. Skin cancer can occur anywhere on the penis, but it most commonly occurs at the glans penis (the cone-shaped end of the penis), especially... read more .
Infections of the penis
Growths on the penis are sometimes caused by infections, especially sexually transmitted infections Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) . One example is syphilis Syphilis Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum. It can occur in three stages of symptoms, separated by periods of apparent good health. Syphilis... read more , which may cause flat pink or gray growths (condylomata lata). Also, certain viral infections can cause one or more small, firm, raised skin growths (genital warts Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection Human papillomavirus (HPV) can be sexually transmitted and causes changes in cells, which can lead to genital warts or to precancer or cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, or throat. Different... read more , or condylomata acuminata) or small, firm, dimpled growths (molluscum contagiosum Molluscum Contagiosum Molluscum contagiosum is a contagious skin infection caused by a poxvirus that causes pink or white, dome-shaped, and smooth or waxy bumps to form. This infection is caused by a poxvirus. The... read more ). Scabies Scabies Infestation Scabies is a parasitic skin infestation caused by mites. Scabies usually spreads from person to person through physical contact. People with scabies have severe itching, even though there are... read more can cause small, itchy bumps.
Lichen planus of the penis
Lichen planus Lichen Planus Lichen planus, a recurring itchy disease, starts as a rash of small, separate, red or purple bumps that then combine and become rough, scaly patches. The cause is unknown but may be a reaction... read more can cause small flat or raised spots on the head or shaft of the penis. They often itch. Occasionally, painful sores develop on the penis and in the gums (called penogingival syndrome). Lichen planus usually resolves on its own. No treatment is required unless itching is bothersome. Corticosteroid creams can relieve itching.
Pearly penile papules
Pearly penile papules are abnormal growths originating in the blood vessels of the penis. They appear as small, usually skin-colored growths shaped like domes or hairs on the shaft of the penis. They are harmless and common, occurring in as many as 10% of men. No treatment is required.
Balanitis xerotica obliterans
Balanitis xerotica obliterans (also called lichen sclerosus et atrophicus Lichen Sclerosus Lichen sclerosus is a disorder that tends to cause itching and can cause scarring in the area around the anus and genitals. The cause of lichen sclerosis is unknown, but it may involve the immune... read more ) occurs when long-term (chronic) inflammation causes the skin near the tip of the penis to harden and turn white. The opening of the urethra is often surrounded by this hard white tissue, which eventually blocks the flow of urine and semen. Antibacterial, corticosteroid, or anti-inflammatory creams may relieve the inflammation, but if the urethra must be reopened, it is done surgically.
Contact dermatitis of the penis
Contact dermatitis Contact Dermatitis Contact dermatitis is skin inflammation caused by direct contact with a particular substance. The rash may be itchy, is confined to a specific area, and often has clearly defined boundaries... read more is often caused by use of a latex condom in a man who is allergic to latex. Usually red, itchy spots appear. Sometimes the skin is broken or fluid leaks from around the spots. Affected men should instead use a synthetic nonlatex condom. Natural condoms do not protect adequately against human immunodeficiency virus infection Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is a viral infection that progressively destroys certain white blood cells and is treated with antiretroviral medications. If untreated, it can cause... read more . If necessary, symptoms can be relieved by a corticosteroid cream, such as 1% hydrocortisone cream (available over the counter).
Local (in situ) skin cancers of the penis
Local skin cancers of the penis Penile Cancer Cancers of the penis are usually types of skin cancers. Skin cancer can occur anywhere on the penis, but it most commonly occurs at the glans penis (the cone-shaped end of the penis), especially... read more can include
Erythroplasia of Queyrat
Bowen disease of the penis
Erythroplasia of Queyrat and Bowen disease Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Situ Squamous cell carcinoma in situ is an early form of squamous cell carcinoma that is confined to the outer layer of the skin (epidermis) and has not yet invaded the deeper layers. Squamous cell... read more of the penis are well-defined areas of reddish, velvety pigmentation on the glans (erythroplasia of Queyrat) or white-gray, thickened areas on the shaft (Bowen disease), primarily in uncircumcised men. Erythroplasia of Queyrat is a squamous cell carcinoma in situ (superficial skin cancer) of the glans penis or foreskin; Bowen disease of the penis is squamous cell carcinoma in situ of the skin on the penile shaft.
Bowenoid papulosis involves smaller, often multiple, bumps (papules) on the shaft of the penis. It frequently develops in people infected with human papillomavirus Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection Human papillomavirus (HPV) can be sexually transmitted and causes changes in cells, which can lead to genital warts or to precancer or cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, or throat. Different... read more .
Paget disease of the nipple (not to be confused with Paget disease of bone) is a rare cancer that can occur in locations other than the breasts, including the penis.
Doctors remove a sample of tissue for examination (biopsy) to determine the type of cancer and to make sure the cancer has not spread beyond the skin.
Fluorouracil cream, a surgical procedure, or laser therapy may be used to remove the cancer. Affected men should be regularly monitored for recurrence or spread because these lesions can become more invasive cancers.