If red spots have formed on your penis, it’s important to remember that they aren’t always a sign of something serious.

In some cases, red spots may result from poor hygiene or a minor irritation. These spots typically disappear in a day or two.

Red spots that develop as a result of something more serious, such as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), typically last longer and are accompanied by other symptoms.

Read on to learn what symptoms to watch for, how each condition might be treated, and when to see your doctor.

If you’re looking for a quick diagnosis, you can use the following chart to assess your spot symptoms. This chart is only assessing the appearance, feel, location, and number of spots — it isn’t accounting for any other symptoms that you may be experiencing.

If you’re leaning toward one or two different conditions based on spot symptoms, read more about them below to assess any other symptoms, learn treatment options, and see whether you should visit your doctor.

itchytender or soregeneral rash, few distinct spotscluster of bumpsfluid-filled bumpsraised bumpssunken bumpsunder the skin
balanitis
contact dermatitis
genital herpes
genital eczema
genital psoriasis
jock itch
molluscum contagiosum
scabies
syphilis
yeast infection

Genital herpes is an STI that can cause red spots on your penis, as well as your:

  • scrotum
  • pubic area at the base of the penis
  • thighs
  • buttocks
  • mouth (if it’s passed through oral sex)

Genital herpes results from the herpes simplex virus (HSV-2 or, less frequently, HSV-1). This virus enters your body during unprotected sex with someone who carries the virus.

Other symptoms include:

  • pain or discomfort
  • itchiness
  • ulcers that bleed or drain when blisters pop
  • scarring or scab development when ulcers get better

Options for treatment

See your doctor if you think you have genital herpes. It isn’t curable, but your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications, such as valacyclovir (Valtrex) or acyclovir (Zovirax), to ease your symptoms and prevent it from spreading to your sexual partners.

Syphilis is an STI caused by Treponema pallidum. This bacterium is spread through unprotected sex with someone who’s infected.

The first symptom is often a circular, red, painless sore on your penis and genital area. If left untreated, it can spread and advance to other parts of your body.

As the infection progresses, you may experience:

  • rash on other parts of your body, such as your torso
  • fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher
  • lymph node swelling
  • headaches
  • paralysis

Options for treatment

Seek immediate medical attention if you think you have syphilis. The longer it’s untreated, the more severe and irreversible your symptoms may become.

In its early stages, syphilis can be successfully cured with injected or oral antibiotics, such as:

  • benzathine penicillin
  • ceftriaxone (Rocephin)
  • doxycycline (Oracea)

You shouldn’t engage in sexual activity until a follow-up blood test shows that the infection has cleared.

Scabies happens when mites burrow into your skin to live, eat skin cells, and lay eggs. These mites are spread through close contact — usually sexual activity — with someone who already has them.

The most notable symptoms are itching and irritation where the mite dug into your skin.

Other symptoms include:

  • dry, scaly skin
  • blisters
  • white-colored lines in the skin where mites have burrowed

Options for treatment

See your doctor if you think you have scabies. They’ll likely prescribe a topical cream, such as permethrin (Elimite) or crotamiton (Eurax), to treat and clear the infestation. You should follow their instructions for application closely.

Molluscum contagiosum is a skin infection caused by a poxvirus. It’s spread through skin-to-skin contact or by sharing towels, clothes, bedding, or other materials with someone who’s infected.

It typically results in red, itchy bumps on your penis and other affected areas. Scratching can irritate the bumps and cause the infection to spread to other areas of the body.

Options for treatment

Molluscum contagiosum often goes away on its own, so you don’t need to seek treatment right away.

To relieve symptoms, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following:

  • topical therapies to dissolve bumps
  • cryosurgery to freeze and remove bumps
  • curettage to cut bumps out from the skin
  • laser surgery to destroy bumps

Balanitis is irritation of the head (glans) of your penis. It’s usually caused by poor hygiene or an infection. You’re more likely to develop balanitis if you’re uncircumcised.

Red spots, swelling, and itching are common symptoms.

Other symptoms include:

  • pain while urinating
  • fluid buildup under the foreskin
  • inability to pull back your foreskin (phimosis)

Options for treatment

In some cases, balanitis can be resolved by practicing good hygiene. You should keep your penis clean by regularly washing under your foreskin. Use natural, unscented soaps and pat your penis and the area under your foreskin dry.

If your symptoms linger or don’t improve after a couple of days, see your doctor. You may be experiencing an infection.

Your doctor may prescribe:

  • steroid creams, such as hydrocortisone
  • antifungal creams, such as clotrimazole (Lotrimin)
  • antibiotics, such as metronidazole (Flagyl)

Contact dermatitis is a skin reaction from touching something you’re allergic to.

Immediate symptoms include:

  • swelling
  • itching
  • dry, scaly skin
  • pus-filled blisters that burst and ooze

If the bumps start oozing and become infected, you may also experience symptoms like fatigue and fever.

Options for treatment

Contact dermatitis usually goes away on its own. You may find it helpful to:

  • apply a cold compress
  • sit in a warm oatmeal bath
  • take over-the-counter antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

Shop for antihistamines.

You should see your doctor if:

  • your blisters pop
  • you have a fever
  • the rash spreads beyond your penis

Your doctor may recommend prescription-strength antihistamines or other therapies to help ease your symptoms.

A yeast infection, or thrush, is an infection caused by the Candida fungus. It’s usually a result of poor hygiene or sex with someone who’s infected.

The most common symptoms are red spots or irritation in the genital area. The area may also itch.

Other symptoms include:

  • smelliness
  • trouble retracting your foreskin (phimosis)
  • a white, chunky substance at the tip of your penis or under your foreskin

Options for treatment

A yeast infection can go away on its own with improved hygiene and looser clothing.

If your symptoms are severe or last for more than a few days, see your doctor. They may prescribe antifungal creams or oral medication, such as clotrimazole, to help ease your symptoms.

Jock itch, or tinea cruris, is a genital infection caused by dermatophyte fungi. It usually happens when you sweat a lot or don’t wash your genital area well enough.

The most common symptoms are red spots or a rash in your genital area. Your skin may also appear dry, scaly, or flaky.

Options for treatment

Improved hygiene can help relieve symptoms. If your symptoms are severe or last for more than a few days, see your doctor. They may prescribe an antifungal cream or ointment, such as clotrimazole.

Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a skin condition that can cause irritation on your penis. It’s usually a result of both genetic and environmental factors like stress, smoking, and allergens.

The most common symptoms are red, irritated spots or a rash in your genital area.

Other symptoms include:

  • dry, scaly skin
  • constant itching
  • pus-filled blisters that crust over

Options for treatment

If you suspect your symptoms are the result of an eczema flare, see your doctor. They may be able to recommend new or different therapies to help ease your symptoms and prevent flare-ups.

This includes:

  • antibiotic creams, such as mupirocin (Centany)
  • calcineurin inhibitors, such as pimecrolimus (Elidel)
  • topical corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone
  • injectable biologics, such as dupilumab (Dupixent)

In the meantime, you may find it helpful to:

Shop for lotion, moisturizer, and aloe vera now.

Psoriasis happens when skin cells grow too quickly and cause irritation. It's likely caused by an immune system condition in which your white blood cells mistakenly attack skin cells.

The most common symptoms are red, itchy bumps or a rash in your genital area.

Other symptoms can include:

  • dry or sore skin that bleeds
  • joints feeling stiff or swollen
  • thick or ridged fingernails or toenails

Options for treatment

If you suspect your symptoms are the result of a psoriasis flare, see your doctor. They may be able to recommend new or different therapies to help ease your symptoms and prevent flare-ups.

This includes:

  • topical corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone
  • phototherapy, which exposes the skin to concentrated UV light
  • retinoids, such as acitretin (Soriatane)
  • biologics, such as adalimumab (Humira)

Shop for hydrocortisone.

In the meantime, you may find it helpful to:

  • apply lotion, moisturizer, or aloe vera
  • take baths every day
  • limit or avoid alcohol and tobacco intake

Regardless of the suspected cause, you should see your doctor if:

  • the spots become unbearably painful or itchy
  • the spots show signs of infection
  • you notice STI symptoms like fatigue and fever

Your doctor can assess your symptoms and make a diagnosis, if needed. They can also offer information on how to ease your symptoms at home or prescribe any necessary medication.

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