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You may have noticed sore, itchy, or red skin around your groin area. If the irritation hasn’t gone away after a couple of days, don’t ignore it. You may be experiencing one of several different skin conditions, such as genital psoriasis or genital herpes.

Keep reading to learn more about these two conditions, including tips for identification, risk factors, and different treatment options.

It can be hard to distinguish between genital psoriasis and genital herpes without the help of a doctor. Here are some ways you may be able to pinpoint the cause of your symptoms.

Genital psoriasisGenital herpes
The affected area is shiny, smooth, and flat.The affected area has blisters and ulcers.
Psoriasis scales aren’t common in this type of psoriasis, but they may appear in the pubis area (under pubis hair or on the legs) after exposure to certain triggers, such as stress.Symptoms appear 2 to 10 days after sex with a person who has the infection.
Other areas affected with the shiny, smooth, and flat appearance can be found behind your knees or under your breasts. You’re also experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Psoriasis is an inherited autoimmune disease. It can come in many forms and ranges from mild to severe. There are also different types of psoriasis.

The most common type of the disease, plaque psoriasis, causes skin cell production to speed up dramatically. These cells collect on your skin’s surface and create areas of thickening and irritation.

Five key symptoms of plaque psoriasis can include:

The affected areas typically include the:

  • elbows
  • knees
  • scalp
  • lower back

You may also experience another type of psoriasis, called inverse psoriasis, on your genitals. Inverse psoriasis forms in the folds of your skin. It may appear as smooth, dry, red, and shiny lesions. Inverse psoriasis lacks the scales associated with plaque psoriasis.

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that may or may not cause symptoms. Sexually active people may pass this disease on to others without even knowing it. Proper diagnosis is key.

When herpes does cause symptoms, they can include pain, itching, and soreness around your genitals. These symptoms may begin as early as 2 to 10 days after exposure.

Three other symptoms to watch for include:

  • red bumps or white blisters
  • ulcers that ooze or bleed
  • scab formation as ulcers and blisters heal

During the first stage of the virus, you may have swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, and other flu-like symptoms. Skin irritation with herpes is generally localized to your genitals.

There’s some variation in where men and women typically see the signs:

Herpes can make you more susceptible to other STDs if it’s left untreated.

You may also develop a bladder infection, meningitis, or rectal inflammation. A woman with herpes can pass the condition on to her newborn baby.

Because psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, you can’t catch it from someone else.

Only about 3 percent of the American population will develop this disease. You’re at higher risk of psoriasis if you have a family history of the disorder.

Other risk factors for psoriasis can include:

In the United States, around 1 in 8 people between the ages of 14 and 49 have genital herpes.

You’re at risk of herpes if you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a person who has the infection.

Women are more likely than men to contract herpes. Your risk of herpes also increases as the number of sex partners you have increases.

Psoriasis is a lifelong condition. People with psoriasis may find relief from symptoms by using different prescribed oral and topical treatments. Due to the sensitive area of the genitals, you should see a doctor before using any of the following treatments:

Another option is phototherapy. This option involves using ultraviolet (UV) light in small doses to improve affected patches. This is a common treatment for plaque psoriasis, but will be administered carefully with sensitive areas such as the genitals.

Your doctor will take your symptoms and medical history into consideration before prescribing medications.

If you’ve identified different triggers that bring about psoriasis, try to avoid them as much as possible. Triggers can be anything from alcohol to stress to certain medications.

Try keeping a diary to track your personal triggers. Discover more tips for treating psoriasis here.

There’s no cure for herpes. However, your symptoms may become less severe and heal more quickly over time.

There’s a variety of medications you can try that might shorten your outbreaks and make them less severe. Talk with your doctor about your options.

Part of your treatment involves practicing safe sex to prevent spreading herpes to others. Here are three steps to having safer sex:

  1. Tell your sexual partner(s) that you have the condition.
  2. Use condoms to lower the risk of transmission.
  3. When you have flare-ups, wash your hands often and avoid touching sores. This can help prevent the virus from spreading to other parts of your body.

Even if you have no symptoms, you can still pass herpes on to others.

Buy now: Shop for condoms.

It’s a good idea to see your doctor whenever you have a skin issue that won’t go away. Proper identification is your first step toward getting better. Your primary care doctor may refer you to a dermatologist for further expertise.

Having a skin issue on your genitals or elsewhere on your body may make you feel uncomfortable or self-conscious.

Keep in mind that doctors see conditions like these often. They can help you correctly identify what’s affecting you and prescribe treatment to help you manage your symptoms.

If you’re sexually active and haven’t been screened for STDs recently, make an appointment with your doctor. Also, be sure to share any information about your herpes or other STD diagnoses with any potential sexual partners.