Genital Psoriasis: Signs and Symptoms to Look For

If you have itching, stinging, redness, or bleeding in your genital area, talk to your doctor. These could be signs of psoriasis or another serious skin problem. Many people are too embarrassed to bring up such issues, and doctors often don’t ask.

But the right diagnosis and treatment can really help your skin.

What It Looks Like

Genital psoriasis doesn’t look like most other forms of the disease. Patches are often bright red, smooth, and shiny. You usually don’t see scales because they rub off when you move. When they rub off, you might see small spots of blood on your skin and clothing.

Women may have gray, scaly plaques on their vulva, just outside the vagina. But patches in skin folds are often glossy red.

Men can get small red patches on the shaft or tip of their penis. You’re more likely to have scaly patches if you’re circumcised.

Genital psoriasis doesn’t only show up on your private parts. You might also notice patches in your:

  • Pubic area (the place right above your genitals)
  • Upper thighs
  • Skin folds between your thighs and groin
  • Anus and buttocks creases

 

How It Feels

Symptoms of genital psoriasis may seem more intense, uncomfortable, and embarrassing than on other parts of your body. They’re also more likely to change how you feel about sex and intimacy.

You also might feel:

Itch: Most people say this is one of the worst parts of genital psoriasis. Because the area’s so sensitive, the need to scratch can feel more intense and last longer. It may keep you up at night. It could also make it harder to be intimate. You might even scratch until you bleed, setting up a cycle of more itching and bleeding.

Burning and stinging: Genital psoriasis can feel like putting a hot match to your skin. Sweat, heat, and friction can make it worse.

Pain: Not everyone has pain with genital psoriasis. But many people feel sore most of the time, especially when thin skin cracks and bleeds.

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What You Can Do

Friction and sweat can make your symptoms worse or trigger a flare. To keep that at bay:

Wear loose-fitting clothes and underwear. Try boxers instead of briefs and boy shorts instead of thongs. Look for cotton or other natural fabrics that won’t stick to your skin.

Shower off. Don’t give sweat a chance to irritate your skin. Take a quick shower after hard work or exercise. Use warm water, and keep your shower under 10 minutes. Gentle cleansers -- instead of soap -- are your best bet.

Moisturize. This is a key part of daily care for psoriasis on your whole body, including sensitive areas. Be sure to choose products that are fragrance- and alcohol-free.

Use lubricants and a lubricated condom during sex. These can make sex more comfortable for both men and women. Some treatments for genital psoriasis can make latex condoms less effective, so choose nonlatex ones instead. You can find them in most supermarkets and pharmacies.

Be sure your partner understands that psoriasis isn’t an STD, and you can’t catch it from having sex.

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

Sources

SOURCES:

Dermatology and Therapy: “Patients’ Perspectives on the Impact of Genital Psoriasis: A Qualitative Study.”

Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance: “Genital Psoriasis.”

The Psoriasis Association (UK): “Types of Psoriasis.”

DermNet New Zealand: “Genital Psoriasis.”

National Psoriasis Foundation: “Genital psoriasis: how to treat and manage it,” “Genital Psoriasis.”

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