If you notice an itchy rash on your penis, you could have scabies. Microscopic mites called Sarcoptes scabiei cause scabies.

Keep reading to learn more about this highly contagious condition.

Scabies on the penis can cause intense itchiness in your genital area along with tiny, raised pimple-like bumps on and around your penis and scrotum. A scabies rash begins to appear four to six weeks after becoming infested with these tiny mites.

Intense itching is one of the main symptoms of scabies. It occurs because of the mites reproducing on the surface of your skin and then burying themselves into your skin and laying eggs. This also causes a rash that looks like tiny pimples. The rash results from your body’s allergic reaction to the mites on your skin. And you may see tracks left on your skin where they bury themselves.

The intense itching can cause you to scratch excessively. This can result in secondary skin infections from scratching too much. The itching can worsen at nighttime.

Scabies can spread quickly and is highly contagious. It’s primarily spread through skin-to-skin contact. Sexual contact and having multiple partners can result in one of the partners spreading the disease.

You can also catch scabies through contact with infected clothing and bedding, but this is a less common. Scabies doesn’t transfer from animals to humans—only through human-to-human contact.

You have an increased risk for scabies on your penis if you have sexual intercourse or intimate contact with someone who has the disease. Having multiple sexual partners will also increase your risk.

Poor hygiene isn’t a risk factor for scabies. However, poor hygiene can worsen the rash by increasing your risk for bacterial infections resulting from scratching.

Your doctor will perform a physical exam to determine if the rash is scabies. Your doctor may take a small skin sample by scraping the surface of your penis. Your doctor will then send the sample for review under a microscope to confirm if mites and eggs are present. Other conditions that may be confused with scabies include:

Scabies is a treatable condition. You can contain it by avoiding contact with people who have scabies and their belongings.

If you have scabies on your penis, your doctor may recommend taking hot showers or baths daily. The may also prescribe an ointment you can apply to help reduce itchiness. Or your doctor may prescribe topical scabicidal agents to apply to your penis.

Your doctor may also recommend or prescribe the following medications:

  • antihistamine medication to control itching, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • antibiotics to heal infections and prevent other infections cause by repeated scratching
  • steroid cream to help relive itching and swelling

If you have scabies, follow these tips to prevent the infestation from spreading:

  • Wash your clothing, towels, and bedding in hot water that’s at least 122°F (50°C).
  • Dry all washed items on high heat for a minimum of 10 minutes.
  • Vacuum items that you can’t wash, including carpets and your mattress.
  • After vacuuming, dispose of the vacuum bag and clean the vacuum with bleach and hot water.

The microscopic mites that cause the scabies rash can live up to 72 hours before they fall from your body.

Scabies on your penis and surrounding genitalia is treatable if you follow your doctor’s recommendations. Limit skin-to-skin contact with others while you have scabies to prevent spreading it.

Symptoms, such as the pimple-like rash and constant itching, will begin to subside between 10 to 14 days after starting treatment.

You can get a bacterial skin infection if you break the skin from scratching the rash. If an infection occurs, your doctor will likely recommend antibiotic treatment. If you’re using ointments, you may develop contact eczema caused by the medications drying your skin.

If you have scabies, you can’t do much to prevent it from spreading to your genitals. However, you can prevent scabies by doing the following:

  • Practice abstinence or monogamy to limit skin-to-skin contact with multiple partners and reduce your risk for infection.
  • Practice personal hygiene daily.
  • Avoid exposure to infested clothing and bedding.
  • Avoid sharing a bed with a person who has scabies.
  • Limit your time in overcrowded areas where people are in enclosed spaces.
  • Practice intervention at the first sign of a possible concern.
  • Don’t share towels, bedding, or clothing with others.