Penile pain can affect the base, shaft, or head of the penis. It can also affect the foreskin. An itching, burning, or throbbing sensation may accompany the pain. Penile pain can be a result of an accident or disease, and it can affect males of any age.
The pain can vary depending on what underlying condition or disease is causing it. If you have an injury, the pain may be severe and occur suddenly. If you have a disease or condition, the pain may be mild and may gradually get worse.
Any type of pain in the penis is a cause for concern, particularly if it occurs during an erection, prevents urination, or occurs along with discharge, sores, redness, or swelling.
Possible Causes of Pain in the Penis
Peyronie’s disease starts when an inflammation causes a thin sheet of scar tissue, called plaque, to form along the upper or lower ridges of the shaft of the penis. Because the scar tissue forms next to the tissue that becomes hard during an erection, you may notice that your penis bends when it’s erect. The disease can happen if bleeding inside the penis starts after you bend or hit it, if you have a connective tissue disorder, or if you have an inflammation of your lymphatic system or blood vessels. The disease can run in some families or may happen for an unknown reason.
Priapism causes a painful, prolonged erection. This erection can happen even when you don’t want to have sex. According to the Mayo Clinic, the problem is most common in boys between 5 and 10 years old and men from 20 to 50 years old. If this occurs, you should get treatment as soon as possible or permanent damage could occur. This damage might stop you from having erections in the future.
Priapism can be due to:
- side effects of drugs used to treat erection problems or drugs used to treat depression
- blood clotting disorders
- mental health disorders
- blood disorders, such as leukemia or sickle cell anemia
- alcohol use
- illegal drug use
- injury to the penis or spinal cord
Balanitis is an infection of the foreskin and the head of the penis. It usually affects men and boys who don’t wash under the foreskin regularly or who haven’t been circumcised, although those who have been circumcised can also get it. It also can happen if you have a yeast infection, a sexually transmitted infection (STI), or an allergy to soaps, perfumes, or other products.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Infection with an STI can cause penile pain. STIs that cause pain include:
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is more common in women, but it can also happen in men. A UTI happens when bacteria invade and infect your urinary tract. An infection might happen if you:
- are uncircumcised
- have a weakened immune system
- have a problem or blockage in your urinary tract
- have sex with someone who has an infection
- have anal sex
- have an enlarged prostate
Like any other part of your body, an injury can damage your penis. Injuries can happen if you:
- are in a car accident
- get burned
- have rough sex
- put a ring around your penis to prolong an erection
- insert objects into your urethra, which is the tube that carries urine out of your penis
Phimosis and Paraphimosis
Phimosis happens in uncircumcised males when the foreskin of the penis is too tight and it can’t be pulled away from the head of the penis. It usually happens in children, but it can also occur if balanitis or an injury causes scarring in the foreskin.
A related condition called paraphimosis happens if your foreskin pulls back from the head of the penis, but then can’t return to its original position covering the penis. Paraphimosis is a medical emergency because it can stop you from urinating and may cause the death of the tissue in the penis.
Penile cancer is another cause of pain in the penis, although it’s uncommon. Certain factors increase your chances of getting cancer, including:
- not being circumcised
- having a human papillomavirus infection
- not cleaning under your foreskin if you’re uncircumcised
- being treated for psoriasis
According to the Cleveland Clinic, most cases of penile cancer happen to men who are over 50 years old.
Treatment Options for Pain in the Penis
Treatment varies depending on the condition or disease:
- Injections soften Peyronie’s disease plaques, and a surgeon can remove them in severe cases.
- Draining the blood from the penis with a needle helps reduces an erection if you have priapism. Medication may also lower the amount of blood flowing to the penis.
- Antibiotics treat UTIs and some STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Antibiotics and antifungal medications can also treat balanitis.
- Antiviral medications can help reduce or shorten herpes outbreaks.
- Stretching the foreskin with your fingers may make it looser if you have phimosis. Steroid creams rubbed on your penis can also help. In some cases, surgery is necessary.
- Icing the head of your penis reduces swelling in paraphimosis. Your doctor also may suggest putting pressure on the head of the penis. They can also inject drugs into the penis to help it drain, or they can make small cuts in the foreskin to decrease swelling.
- A surgeon can remove cancerous parts of the penis. Treatment for penile cancer also may include radiation treatment or chemotherapy.
Preventing Pain in the Penis
You can take some steps to reduce your chances of developing pain, such as using condoms when you have sex, avoiding sex with anyone who has any kind of active infection, and asking sexual partners to avoid rough movements that bend your penis.
If you’re having repeated infections or other problems with your foreskin, having a circumcision or cleaning under your foreskin every day can help.
If you experience pain in the penis, consult with your doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause can drastically affect your health and well-being. If an STI is the cause of your penile pain, alert your current or potential partners to avoid spreading the infection.