Your penis tip, shaft, or foreskin (if you’re uncircumcised) can get cut for many reasons — having rough sex, masturbating too much, wearing uncomfortable pants or underwear, or doing physical activities like riding a bike, playing sports, and manual labor.

A cut is usually nothing to worry about. Like any cut, it’ll heal relatively quickly. Read on to learn more about what can cause a cut on your penis, how these causes are treated, when you should see a doctor, and how to prevent penis cuts.

A penis can get cut for numerous reasons.

Friction injuries

Penile skin is thin and prone to getting rubbed raw from physical or sexual activity. It’s also often exposed to contact injuries from:

  • playing sports, especially football, baseball, basketball, and cycling
  • jogging or running
  • cardio exercise that involves a lot of up and down movements
  • sexual intercourse
  • masturbation

Penile skin is also somewhat loose whether the penis is flaccid or erect. The skin can get pulled back and forth in your pants or during thrusting in sexual intercourse, potentially tearing the skin.

During sex, anywhere on your penis can get cut from friction created by movement within the vagina, anus, or mouth. The most delicate areas are more likely to get cut, such as the frenulum, a small, thin strip of skin that connects the bottom of the penis head, or glans, to the shaft.

Balanitis

Balanitis is an irritation on the head of your penis. It’s most common if you haven’t been circumcised. It’s usually caused by not washing under the foreskin thoroughly, getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI), or by certain skin conditions like eczema.

Balanitis symptoms can include:

  • redness
  • swollen glands
  • soreness
  • itchiness
  • pain during urination

Irritation can resemble a cut. And if you scratch itchy spots on your penis too often or too hard, you can tear open the skin. Untreated balanitis can also cause your foreskin to become impossible to pull back, which is known as phimosis.

Yeast infection

A yeast infection (or thrush) happens when a fungus, such as Candida albicans, grows out of control on your penis skin or foreskin. It can be caused by not washing your penis thoroughly enough, sweating in your groin area, or having sex with someone who has an infection. Having diabetes or a weakened immune system can also make you more likely to develop thrush.

Common symptoms include:

  • white buildup on your penis
  • irritated, shiny skin
  • redness
  • itchiness
  • burning sensation

As with balanitis, spots of irritation can resemble a cut. Scratching itchy areas can cut open your skin.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

Some STDs have symptoms that can make your penis skin look like it’s cut. Redness, swelling, rashes, irritation, and bumpy skin are all common hallmarks of several STDs, including:

Severe rashes and irritation can tear open your skin. It’s important to get an STD treated quickly before it causes any complications. See your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms along with a penis cut:

  • pain during urination
  • severe pain or swelling in your penis or testicles
  • blood in your urine or abnormal discharge from your penis
  • abnormal penis odor
  • pain while having sex
  • fever
  • headaches
  • exhaustion
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • bumps or rashes around your upper thighs, butt, or anus

See your doctor if you’re still experiencing pain or swelling seven days after a cut heals. Even if a cut seems minor, you can still be exposed to infections.

Seek emergency medical help if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • The cut is wide open and bleeding profusely.
  • You’re having trouble or feeling pain when urinating.
  • You feel excessive pain that doesn’t go away with pain medications.
  • There’s blood in your urine that isn’t from the cut.
  • You have pain or swelling in your testicles.

Treatment depends on the cause of the cut.

A small cut can be treated with basic first aid for cuts:

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Put a bandage or clean piece of cloth over the cut to stop any bleeding.
  3. Use clean water to wash out the cut. Clean the area around your cut with soap. Don’t get soap in the cut.
  4. Use an ointment with antibiotics to moisten the area around the cut.
  5. Use a bandage or gauze dressing with medical tape to cover the cut.
  6. Change the bandage or dressing once daily.

Treatment for other causes include:

  • Balanitis. Use a steroid cream, such as hydrocortisone, for irritation or antibiotics, such as metronidazole (Flagyl), for a bacterial infection. Your doctor may recommend circumcision if you get balanitis often.
  • Yeast infection. An antifungal cream, such as clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF), applied to the infected area can help treat a yeast infection.
  • Genital warts. Warts can be treated using gels or creams, such as podofilox (Condylox) or imiquimod (Zyclara). They can also be removed using laser surgery, cryotherapy (freezing), or electrosurgery.
  • Genital herpes. Genital herpes isn’t curable, but herpes symptoms and outbreaks can be reduced with antiviral medications, such as valacyclovir (Valtrex) or acyclovir (Zovirax).
  • Trichomoniasis. Oral antibiotics, such as metronidazole (Flagyl), can help treat a trichomoniasis bacterial infection.
  • Syphilis. Syphilis can be treated with penicillin. You will need several injections of these antibiotics if your syphilis is advanced.
  • HIV. The best long-term treatment for HIV is antiretroviral therapy (ART). This consists of regularly taking medications consisting of antiviral medications, such as Genvoya, to suppress the virus.

A cut will heal in a few days and is treatable at home if it’s not too big. Larger cuts may take a week or more to heal. Infected cuts may require medical attention.

See your doctor if your cut doesn’t heal right away or the cut and any associated symptoms get worse.

Prevent penis cuts by planning ahead and practicing good hygiene.

Here are some tips to keep your penis from getting cut up:

  • Keep your penis skin clean. Bathe regularly to keep bacteria, smegma, dead skin, and skin oils from building up. Gently wash your penis each time you bathe and pat it dry.
  • Keep your penis moisturized. Use a natural moisturizer, such as shea butter or coconut oil, to keep your penis tissues from getting too dry and cracking open.
  • Wear comfortable, breathable, 100 percent cotton underwear — nothing too loose or tight. Your penis is more likely to get cut if it’s flopping around too much in your pants.
  • Wear a condom when you have sex. The extra layer of protection can prevent you from cutting or irritating the penis skin due to the friction from sex. Condoms can also stop yeast infections or STDs from spreading, both of which can cause penis cuts. Use condoms made of polyurethane or non-latex materials if you’re allergic to latex.
  • Wear protection around your genital area when you’re active. Using a jock strap or athletic cup can keep your penis in place and prevent scratches or cuts from being tossed around.
  • Be careful when you masturbate. Masturbating when your hand or penis skin is dry can irritate and cut open the skin. Consider using lotion, lubricants, or baby oil for a better experience.