What is lymphangiosclerosis?

Lymphangiosclerosis is a condition involving the hardening of a lymph vessel connected to a vein in your penis. It often looks like a thick cord wrapping around the bottom of the head of your penis or along the entire length of your penile shaft.

This condition is also known as sclerotic lymphangitis. Lymphangiosclerosis is a rare condition but it’s usually not serious. In many cases, it goes away on its own.

Read on to learn more about how to recognize this condition, what causes it, and how it’s treated.

At first glance, lymphangiosclerosis can look like a bulging vein in your penis. Keep in mind that the veins in your penis might look larger after strenuous sexual activity.

To help differentiate lymphangiosclerosis from an enlarged vein, check for these additional symptoms around the cordlike structure:

  • painless when touched
  • about an inch or less in width
  • firm to the touch, doesn’t give when you push on it
  • same color as surrounding skin
  • doesn’t disappear under the skin when the penis goes flaccid

This condition is usually benign. This means that it’ll cause you little to no pain, discomfort, or harm.

However, it’s sometimes linked to a sexually transmitted infection (STI). In this case, you might also notice:

  • pain while urinating, while erect, or during ejaculation
  • pain in your lower abdomen or back
  • testicle swelling
  • redness, itchiness, or irritation on the penis, scrotum, upper thighs, or anus
  • clear or cloudy discharge from the penis
  • fatigue
  • fever

Lymphangiosclerosis is caused by the thickening or hardening of a lymph vessel that’s connected to a vein in your penis. Lymph vessels carry a fluid called lymph, which is full of white blood cells, throughout your body to help fight infections.

This hardening is usually a response to some kind of injury involving the penis. This can restrict or block the flow of lymph fluid or blood in your penis.

Several things can contribute to lymphangiosclerosis, such as:

Lymphangiosclerosis is a rare condition, which can make it harder for doctors to recognize. However, the color of the area can help your doctor narrow down an underlying cause. The bulging area associated with lymphangiosclerosis is usually the same color as the rest of your skin, while veins usually look dark blue.

To come to a diagnosis, your doctor might also:

  • order a complete blood count to check for antibodies or a high white blood cell count, both signs of an infection
  • take a small tissue sample from nearby skin to rule out other conditions, including cancer
  • take a urine or semen sample to check for signs of an STI

If you don’t already have a doctor, the Healthline FindCare tool can help you find a physician in your area.

Most cases of lymphangiosclerosis go away in a few weeks without any treatment.

However, if it’s due to an STI, you’ll likely need to take an antibiotic. In addition, you’ll need to avoid having sex until the infection is completely gone and you’ve finished taking a full course of antibiotics. You should also tell any recent sexual partners so they can get tested and start taking antibiotics if needed.

Regardless of the cause, lymphangiosclerosis can make getting an erection or having sex uncomfortable. This should stop once the condition goes away. In the meantime, you can try using a water-based lubricant during sex or masturbation to reduce pressure and friction.

Surgery isn’t usually needed to treat this condition, but your doctor might suggest surgically removing the lymph vessel if it keeps hardening.

Lymphangiosclerosis is a rare but usually harmless condition. If it’s not associated with an underlying STI, it should resolve on its own within a few weeks. If it doesn’t seem to be getting better, make an appointment with your doctor. They can test for any underlying causes that need treatment.