Genital Psoriasis: Can Symptoms Be Something Else?

Psoriasis in your genital area is different from other forms of the disease. Even if you have plaques in other places, it’s easy to mistake itching and burning there for something else.

Don’t let embarrassment keep you from talking to your doctor. Getting the right diagnosis and treatment are the first steps toward clearer skin.

What Could It Be?

Genital psoriasis can look like a lot of other things. Some aren’t that common, but it’s important for your doctor to rule them out.

Seborrheic dermatitis (SD): You usually get this itchy red rash on your scalp or face, but it can show up in other places, too, including your groin, pubic area, and genitals. In sensitive areas, SD is bright red with almost no scale. Some people have both SD and psoriasis.

Yeast infection: It’s normal to blame itching and burning in the genital area on yeast infections, because so many women have them. But you get them inside your vagina, while psoriasis is on the vulva just outside it. You can usually treat yeast infections with over-the-counter meds. But if you have psoriasis, these can make your symptoms worse.

Tinea cruris (jock itch): This is a type of yeast infection that happens mostly in men. It causes itchy red spots, mainly around the creases in your upper thighs. You usually don’t have it on your penis.

Contact dermatitis: This itchy rash starts when you come in contact with something you’re allergic to. Hundreds of things can be to blame, including:

  • Soaps
  • Creams
  • Lotions
  • Laundry detergents
  • Dyes
  • Fabrics
  • Condoms

Eczema: This skin condition causes itchy red patches and thin cracks in your skin. Women can have it on their vulva, around the anus, and between their butt cheeks. Men usually get blisters on their penis. One simple way to ease symptoms: Add two cups of vinegar to a warm bath and soak for 15 minutes. Then seal the moisture in with a thick, non-fragranced cream.

Lichen planus: You can get this common skin problem almost anywhere, including your mouth, scalp, nails, and genitals. It usually looks like clusters of shiny, purplish-red bumps. On your genitals, the skin can be bright red and raw, with open sores. In women, tissue can break down and change the shape of the vulva. Lichen planus can also make sex painful for both men and women.

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. This rare form of skin cancer looks a lot like psoriasis. If your doctor thinks you may have it, they might take a small skin sample -- a biopsy -- to be sure.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on July 12, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Clinician Reviews: “Penile Rash Worries Man (And Wife).”

Clinical Dermatology: “Psoriasis differential diagnosis.”

Harvard Health: “Managing common vulvar skin conditions.”

American Academy of Dermatology: “Lichen planus: Signs and symptoms.”

Dermatology News: “Be mindful of psoriasis/cutaneous T-cell lymphoma link.”

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