Psoriasis is an inflammatory autoimmune condition that can affect the skin anywhere on your body. Genital psoriasis develops around your genital area. It can flare up on the vulva or the penis. It can also appear on your upper thighs, the folds of skin between your thigh and groin, or between your 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 their 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 hard to determine those factors and avoid them.
Psoriasis tends to run in families, but it isn’t contagious. The condition can be managed effectively, but there’s currently no cure.
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 your skin, also known as inverse psoriasis, the color may be more of a reddish-white or reddish-grey. Your skin can become cracked and sore and may bleed. Psoriasis can also look a lot like thrush, which is a type of yeast infection. Learn more about what inverse psoriasis looks like.
Most of the time, your doctor can make a diagnosis just by looking at your skin. 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.
Many items can aggravate your symptoms, including:
- tight clothes
- rough toilet paper
- sanitary products
- anything that rubs against your skin or causes friction, including sexual activity
It can be hard to tell the difference between genital psoriasis 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. Learn more about the various causes of genital rash.
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 your genitals is quite delicate. If you develop a rash on or around your genitals, it’s important that you see your 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.
The short answer is yes if it feels good. It all depends on the severity of your flare-up and personal preference. Genital psoriasis doesn’t spread by sexual contact, nor does it affect fertility.
If you’re having a genital psoriasis flare-up, friction from sexual contact can be painful and might worsen your symptoms. 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.
If you notice a rash forming in your genital areas, the following tips may help keep your rash from getting worse:
- Avoid personal hygiene products with 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. Boxers will probably feel better than briefs. Avoid wearing tight thongs.
- Choose loose-fitting, breathable clothing.
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.
Some over-the-counter medications or moisturizers may be helpful. Ask your doctor for a recommendation before using them.
Treating your general psoriasis with a systemic oral or injectable treatment may alleviate symptoms of genital psoriasis. Keep in mind that finding the right treatment for you may require a period of trial and error but with your doctor’s help you may be able to find the best management solution.