What Is Genital Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an inflammatory, autoimmune condition that can affect the skin anywhere on your body. Genital psoriasis is psoriasis that develops around the genitals. It can flare up on the vulva or the penis. It can also appear on the upper thighs, the folds of skin between your thigh and groin, or between the buttocks. It rarely affects the inside of the vagina.
Anyone can get psoriasis, but researchers don’t know the precise cause. It’s not clear why some people with psoriasis get it around the genitals.
If you have psoriasis, you might go a long time without a problem and then have a flare-up. Flare-ups may be triggered by factors such as stress or illness, but it can be difficult to determine those factors and to avoid them.
Psoriasis tends to run in families, but it isn’t contagious.
The disease can be managed effectively, but there’s no cure for it.
What Does Genital Psoriasis Look Like?
The most common type of psoriasis on the genitals is inverse psoriasis, which forms in the folds of the skin.
In general, psoriasis looks like patches of red skin with thick, shiny scales. When it develops in the genital area, the patches may be a brighter red, but you usually won’t see the classic scales of psoriasis.
When it occurs within the folds of skin, the color may be more of a reddish-white or reddish-grey. The skin can become cracked and sore. It can look a lot like thrush, which is a type of yeast infection.
Most of the time, doctors can make the diagnosis just by looking at it. Sometimes, further testing may be needed to rule out bacterial or fungal infections.
The genitals are a sensitive area, so your skin is likely to be tender. Genital psoriasis can cause itching, burning, and quite a bit of discomfort. It can even become painful.
Tight clothes, rough toilet paper, and sanitary products can all aggravate symptoms. Anything that rubs against the skin or causes friction is likely to make it worse. This includes sexual intercourse.
Psoriasis in the folds of the skin may crack or bleed.
How Do I Know for Sure If I Have It?
It can be hard to tell the difference between psoriasis of the genitals and contact dermatitis or some types of infection. Even if you have psoriasis, it’s not a given that a genital rash is due to psoriasis.
If your skin cracks, you’re more susceptible to bacterial or fungal infections. It’s possible to have both genital psoriasis and an infection at the same time, which may require a combination of treatments.
The skin around the genitals is quite delicate, so you’ll want to be careful. If you develop a rash on or around your genitals, it’s important that you see a doctor for a diagnosis before you try to treat it.
Treating the condition sooner rather than later will give you a better chance of finding relief from symptoms.
Can I Still Have Sex If I Have Genital Psoriasis?
The short answer is “yes” if it feels good. On the other hand, if you’re having a genital psoriasis flare-up, friction from sexual contact can be painful. It can even make the symptoms worse. Ask your doctor if condoms or lubricants are advisable and which kinds are best. After having sex, be sure to gently clean and pat dry the area completely.
It all comes down to the severity of your flare-up and personal preference.
Genital psoriasis doesn’t spread by sexual contact, nor does it affect fertility.
What Is the Treatment for Genital Psoriasis?
If you notice a rash forming in your genital areas, you can do the following at home to help keep the rash from getting worse:
- Avoid personal hygiene products that have fragrances or other harsh ingredients.
- Keep the area clean.
- After bathing or showering, use a soft towel and gently pat yourself dry.
- Avoid rubbing.
- Use soft, absorbent toilet paper.
- Minimize friction by wearing cotton underwear. Boxer shorts will probably feel better than briefs. Avoid wearing tight thongs.
- Choose loose-fitting, breathable clothing.
Some over-the-counter medications or moisturizers may be helpful, but ask your doctor for a recommendation before using them.
If your doctor confirms that you have genital psoriasis, there are a variety of treatments you can try.
Prescription-strength topical ointments and creams can ease itching and discomfort. In some cases, your doctor may recommend topical steroid creams.
Treating your psoriasis in general with a systemic treatment may alleviate symptoms of genital psoriasis. Psoriasis treatment may include oral or injectable medications.
Keep in mind that finding the right treatment may require a period of trial and error.