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Skin Abnormalities Affecting the Penis


Patrick J. Shenot

, MD, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

Reviewed/Revised Aug 2023
Topic Resources
The Penis and Urethra

Infections of the penis

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 Lichen Planus 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 Lichen Sclerosus ) 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 Contact Dermatitis 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 Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection . 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

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 Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Situ 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.

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.

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