Sensitive genital areas require special treatments
It's common for psoriasis to show up on the genitals of men and women. Psoriasis of the penis can occur on circumcised and uncircumcised men, and is generally found on the glans (round area at the end) and/or the shaft of the penis. Psoriasis can also be found anywhere in the groin area.
The most common type of psoriasis of the penis is inverse psoriasis, which doesn't have the scaling that's typically seen in plaque psoriasis. Instead, it usually shows up as smooth lesions or patches that are dry, shiny and red or pinkish in color.
Like psoriasis elsewhere, penis psoriasis can be triggered by a number of things; contraceptives like spermicidal creams, tight-fitting clothes or sexual intercourse are known cause penis psoriasis. It can also flare-up spontaneously without any apparent cause or trigger.
When psoriasis affects the penis, it can cause a significant amount of physical discomfort and often interferes with sexual activity. It cannot, however, be spread from one person to another by sexual contact (or any other kind of contact).
Treatments for Psoriasis of the Penis
Treating penis psoriasis can be more difficult than treating psoriasis on other parts of the body because of the thinness of the skin in the genital area and its increased sensitivity. For example, coal tar and tazarotene aren't usually used here because of the potential for irritation. Mild topical treatments and ultraviolet (UV) light are more often prescribed.
The most widely used topical treatments for psoriasis of the penis are tacrolimus ointment or pimecrolimus cream, which can be effective but can also cause some irritation. Other topical treatments include low-strength corticosteroid and calcipotriene (sometimes mixed with petroleum jelly), but these must be used carefully because of irritation, permanent thinning of the skin and other side effects.
UV light is also effective at treating penis psoriasis, but it must be used cautiously. Much lower doses of UV light are used when treating the genital area because of the potential for severe burning of the thinner skin in this area.
Some doctors avoid prescribing systemic treatments when psoriasis occurs primarily in the genital area, but other doctors may prescribe it when topical creams and light therapy aren't effective. Ask your doctor which treatments will give you the best results.
Other tips for managing penis psoriasis include:
- keeping the genital area clean
- wearing a lubricated condom during intercourse
- washing off medication before sexual activity, then reapplying it after
Talk with your sexual partner(s) so they have a better understanding of psoriasis and how it affects you.
National Psoriasis Foundation
The Psoriasis Association (UK)