Genital Psoriasis: What Is It?

Psoriasis can show up anywhere -- even on your genitals. Sometimes that might be the only place you have it. Or you might have patches on your genitals and patches in other places at the same time.

Either way, genital psoriasis can be embarrassing, uncomfortable, and hard to treat.

Some common ways to deal with psoriasis, like using a moisturizer after you bathe or shower and losing extra weight, are good for your private parts, too. But other treatments are too harsh and can damage the tender skin around those parts.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor. Genital psoriasis must be treated with care, but the right medicine can help control or even clear up your symptoms.

What Does It Look Like?

Genital psoriasis doesn’t look like 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.

Women may have some gray, scaly places 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.

Genital psoriasis doesn’t only happen to your private parts. You can have it anywhere between your bellybutton and the tops of your thighs, including your:

Pubic area: This is the place right above your genitals. You have hair here, so doctors treat psoriasis in this area like scalp psoriasis. You have to use care, though, because pubic skin’s more tender than skin on your head.

Upper thighs: You might have a lot of small round patches on your inner thighs. They get worse from sweat and friction from tight clothing, exercise, or sex.

Creases between your thigh and groin: Skin in these folds is very thin and may crack open and bleed.

Anus: You might have itching, bleeding, and pain when you go to the bathroom.

Buttock crease: Psoriasis here is usually red and sometimes scaly.

How Is It Treated?

If you have psoriasis on your genitals as well as other parts of your body, you may need two different treatment plans. Genital skin is too thin for some common psoriasis medicines. But there are other things your doctor can try.

Most are topicals -- creams and ointments you rub on your skin. Medicine you take by mouth or get through a shot or IV might be an option if your symptoms are very severe, or you have psoriasis in other places, like your elbows and knees.

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How to Protect Yourself

To keep genital skin healthy, try to avoid friction as much as you can because it can trigger flares. Here’s how:

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.

Use soft, high-quality toilet paper, and wipe gently. If it’s hard to go, a fiber supplement can help.

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. Also, keep in mind that genital 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:

The Psoriasis Association (UK): “Sensitive areas.”

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

Dermatology: “Psoriasis and Obesity.”

DermNet New Zealand: “Genital psoriasis.”

American Academy of Dermatology: “How can I treat genital psoriasis?”

The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance: “Genital psoriasis.”

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