A Guide to Eczema on the Penis

Medically Reviewed By Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI
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Eczema, which refers to areas of itchy skin inflammation, can occur on the penis or other areas of the male genitalia. You may be able to manage the symptoms with home remedies like an oatmeal bath or prescription treatments like oral steroids. Several types of eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, can affect the penis. These include irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis.

Read on to learn more about eczema on the penis, including the types, causes, symptoms, and treatments.

What types of eczema can affect the penis?

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Eczema is a general term that applies to several kinds of skin inflammation that usually cause itching and rashes. Some common types that can affect the penis and other genital areas include:

  • irritant contact dermatitis
  • allergic contact dermatitis
  • seborrheic dermatitis

There are other forms of eczema that are less common, and you can have more than one type at a time.

What causes eczema on the penis?

Eczema develops due to an overreaction in the immune system, which various factors can trigger. The type of eczema is determined by what’s causing it:

  • Irritant contact dermatitis is caused by the skin touching something that irritates it. When this type affects the penis, the cause may be underwear, tight clothing, or protective sports gear. It could also be caused by substances on your hand that transfer when you touch your penis, or from feces that has not been wiped away. Some sexual lubricants and barrier contraceptives can also be irritating.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis develops secondary to direct contact with a substance that contains an allergen. This may include chemicals or other substances in soaps, laundry detergents, bathroom wipes, desensitizing products used during sex, or latex condoms.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis may develop due to the overgrowth of yeast on the skin or the overproduction of sebum, an oil produced by the skin. It is not caused by poor skin hygiene or allergens.

Eczema can also be triggered by dry skin, environmental factors, stress, or genetics.

What are the symptoms of eczema on the penis?

The symptoms of eczema on the penis can be very uncomfortable and may disturb your sleep, daily routine, and sexual activity. They can include:

  • red, scaly, or bumpy areas along the glans and shaft of the penis
  • itching, which may be intense
  • dry, discolored skin
  • crusty skin
  • swelling

On darker skin tones, eczema can appear as darker brown, gray, or purple patches.

Keeping a record of your symptoms, including when they appear or flare up, can help doctors diagnose the condition by allowing them to see trends.

How do doctors diagnose eczema on the penis?

Doctors diagnose eczema by examining the skin and asking you about your symptoms, including when they appeared and if they flare up at particular times. In addition, they may perform allergy skin prick or patch testing if they suspect an allergen is the cause.

Learn more about allergy skin testing.

What are the treatments for eczema on the penis?

Several treatment options may lessen or eliminate eczema symptoms.

Home remedies

Certain home treatments may provide symptom relief:

  • Apply a cool compress, such as a damp, clean towel or cloth, for about 20 minutes at a time.
  • Take an oatmeal bath, using a cup of colloidal oatmeal in the tub. Alternatively, you can apply damp oatmeal to the penis and gently wrap it.
  • Apply a mild over-the-counter (OTC) hydrocortisone cream, but follow the instructions closely and don’t use it for more than one week unless your doctor recommends it.
  • Try OTC antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or cetirizine (Zyrtec), which can reduce the inflammatory response and break the itch-scratch cycle.

Home remedies can help, but some may increase irritation. If you notice that your symptoms worsen or do not improve, talk with your doctor about additional treatments.

Prescription treatments

If you’re still experiencing symptoms that bother you, you can talk with your doctor about prescription medical treatments. These include:

  • Nonsteroidal topical medications: These suppress the immune reaction and reduce inflammation. Some common types include pimecrolimus (Elidel) and tacrolimus (Protopic). Apply them to the skin as directed by your doctor.
  • Oral medications: Steroids, including prednisone (Deltasone), can reduce inflammation. In addition, medications such as abrocitinib (Cibinqo) or upadacitinib (Rinvoq) suppress the immune system to provide symptom relief.
  • Injectable treatments: Injectable medications such as dupilumab (Dupixent) or tralokinumab-ldrm (Adbry), can block the activity of certain proteins that contribute to inflammation. These biologic medications are usually recommended only for severe cases of eczema that are not responding to other treatments.
  • UV light treatments: Also called phototherapy, this treatment can inhibit inflammation and relieve symptoms in some severe cases.

Talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of prescription treatments for eczema on the penis.

What is the outlook for people with eczema on the penis?

Eczema is a non-contagious condition that can flare up and then subside. While there is no cure for eczema, following your doctor’s treatment plan and avoiding any triggers can help manage it.

It’s essential to avoid scratching the affected area. Scratching can further damage the skin barrier and may lead to infections.

Sexual activity may be uncomfortable if you are having a flare-up, and you could also pass on an infection to your partner. Take precautions or avoid sex involving the penis until any infection has fully healed.

Can you prevent eczema on the penis?

Understanding what triggers your eczema can help reduce flares. In addition, certain practices may be beneficial, including:

  • wearing loose, soft, breathable fabrics next to your genitals
  • keeping the penis and surrounding area clean using mild, unscented cleansing products
  • moisturizing the penile skin with unscented products or gentle skin barrier repair creams

When should you see a doctor about eczema on the penis?

Contact your doctor if you experience:

  • symptoms that are getting worse or not going away with home remedies
  • discharge from your penis
  • difficulty or pain when urinating
  • testicular pain
  • pain in your lower abdomen

These symptoms may indicate an underlying condition that requires additional treatment.


Eczema on the penis can develop due to factors like irritation from clothing or an allergic reaction. Symptoms can include itching, discolored skin, and swelling.

Talk with your doctor about ways to manage eczema on the penis.

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Medical Reviewer: Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI
Last Review Date: 2023 Mar 10
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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