Rashes On Genitals - Causes, Symptoms & Treatments
June 19, 20233 min read
A rash on the genitals can be caused by certain infections, parasites and allergies. A doctor can help determine the specific cause and the best way to treat or manage symptoms.
A genital rash is a skin symptom that can be caused by a number of health problems and can occur on any part of the genital area.
Rashes are normally reddish in color, may be painful or itchy, and may include bumps or sores.
Causes of a raised rash on genitals
There are many possible causes for a genital rash, ranging from infections that are easily treatable to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and allergies.
Some of the most common causes of genital rashes are infections:
Jock itch, a fungal infection, or ringworm of the groin area. The rash is red, itchy, and scaly, and it may blister.
Vaginal yeast infection, an infection that affects the vagina and often occurs as a result of taking antibiotics. It causes itching, redness, swelling, and white vaginal discharge.
Balanitis, an inflammation of the foreskin or the head of the penis that’s usually caused by bacterial or fungal growth and is more likely to occur in those who have uncircumcised penises. It leads to itchiness, redness, and a discharge.
Infecting parasites are another possible cause of a genital rash:
Pubic lice are tiny insects. They lay eggs in the genital area and are most often spread from person to person through sexual contact. An infestation of pubic lice causes itchiness and sometimes sores.
Body lice are different from pubic lice and are larger. They live in clothing and on the skin, and feed on blood. They cause an itchy rash on the skin.
Scabies is an itchy skin rash that’s caused by very small mites. They burrow into the skin and cause intense itching, especially at night.
Allergies are another possible reason for a genital rash:
Contact dermatitis is a common type of rash caused when skin comes into contact with an allergen or with an irritant such as a harsh chemical substance. Latex is an allergen that may produce a rash in the genital area because it’s commonly used in condoms.
Psoriasis is a common skin condition. The cause is unknown, but doctors suspect it’s an autoimmune disorder. It can produce a pinkish, scaly, itchy rash anywhere on the body. Psoriasis may also produce sores in the penis area.
STIs are another possible cause of genital rashes and can include:
Genital herpes, a virus that can produce painful, blister-like sores in the genital area. Genital warts, caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They’re small and flesh-colored and may be itchy.
Syphilis, a bacterial infection that’s spread through sexual contact. It produces a rash that can be anywhere on the body. The rash isn’t necessarily itchy.
Diagnosing a genital rash
Before treating a genital rash, a doctor first needs to determine its cause.
The diagnosis process can involve some or all of the following:
A physical examination
The doctor will look at the features of the rash, including any lesions or warts. Let them know about any unusual redness or discharge. They’ll also examine other areas of the skin that may be affected. For example, they may study the webs of your fingers to look for scabies.
Doctors may swab vaginal discharge and any discharge present around the penis, along with lesions.
Skin scraping or biopsies
The doctor may order a skin scrape or biopsy, where they scrape or remove part of a wart, part of a lesion, or skin cells.
The tissue from the scrape or biopsy is examined under a microscope. The findings can potentially be used to diagnose conditions such as psoriasis, scabies, and fungal infections.
Some causes of genital rashes, such as herpes and syphilis, may be detected through blood work.
There are home diagnostic tests you can use to test for STIs, though they may not be as reliable as tests run by a doctor. If you do use a home diagnostic test and get a positive result, have a doctor double-check the results and get treated as soon as possible.
Outlook for people with a genital rash
For most people with rashes, the outlook is very good.
In most cases, the underlying cause can be treated and the rash will clear up. With the right care, parasites and infections that aren’t STIs can be cured and prevented with good hygiene.
Conditions that have no cure, such as genital herpes or autoimmune disorders, can be successfully managed with the right medications.
Syphilis, if caught early, can be cured easily with penicillin. If it’s found later, additional courses of antibiotics may be needed.