What is scabies?

If you notice an itchy rash on your penis, you could have scabies. A mite called Sarcoptes scabiei causes scabies. You can only see these mites through a microscope.

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Keep reading to learn more about this highly contagious condition.

What are the symptoms of scabies on the penis?

Scabies on the penis can involve 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 4 to 6 weeks from initially becoming infested with these tiny mites.

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

The intense itching can cause you to scratch excessively. This can result in possible secondary skin infections from overly scratching these bothersome areas. The itching can worsen at nighttime.

How can you catch scabies?

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 way to catch it. Scabies doesn’t transfer from animals to humans, but you can transfer it through human-to-human contact.

What are the risk factors?

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. Poor hygiene can worsen the rash by increasing your risk for bacterial infections resulting from scratching.

How is scabies diagnosed?

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

  • contact dermatitis
  • eczema
  • folliculitis
  • flea bites
  • lice
  • syphilis
  • chancroid

How is scabies on the penis treated?

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 the following treatments:

  • Take hot showers or baths daily.
  • Apply a prescription-strength ointment. That will help reduce the itchiness that you experience.
  • Your doctor may prescribe acaricide ointment. You can apply the ointment topically 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 any infections and prevent further ones due to 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 the carpet 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 are able to live up to 72 hours before they fall from your body.

What is the outlook?

Scabies on your penis and surrounding genitalia are treatable as long as you follow the your doctor’s recommendations. Limit skin-to-skin contact with others while you have scabies to prevent spreading it to another person.

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 as a result of the medications drying your skin.

How can you prevent scabies?

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.
  • Limit your 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 closed spaces.
  • Practice intervention at the first sign of a possible concern.
  • Don’t share towels, bedding, or clothing with others.

Also, having access to a clean water supply limits your potential for exposure.