Genital sores - male

Definition

A male genital sore is any sore or lesion that appears on the penis, scrotum, or male urethra.

Alternative Names

Sores - male genitals; Ulcers - male genitals

Causes

A common cause of male genital sores are infections that are spread through sexual contact, such as:

  • Genital herpes (small, painful blisters filled with clear or straw-colored fluid)
  • Genital warts (flesh-colored spots that are raised or flat, and may look like the top of a cauliflower)
  • Chancroid (a small bump in the genitals, which becomes an ulcer within a day of its appearance)
  • Syphilis (small, painless open sore or ulcer [called a chancre] on the genitals)
  • Granuloma inguinale (small, beefy-red bumps appear on the genitals or around the anus)
  • Lymphogranuloma venereum (small painless sore on the male genitals)

Other types of male genital sores may be caused by rashes such as psoriasis, molluscum contagiosum, allergic reactions, and non-sexually transmitted infections.

For some of these problems, a sore may also be found other places on the body, such as in the mouth and throat.

Home Care

DO NOT:

  • Try to treat yourself before seeing a health care provider. Self-care may hide the symptoms and make it harder to find the cause of the problem.
  • Have sexual contact until you have had a medical exam.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:

  • You have any unexplained genital sores
  • New sores appear in other parts of your body

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The provider will perform a physical exam. The exam will include the genitals, pelvis, skin, lymph nodes, mouth, and throat.

The provider will ask questions such as:

  • What does the sore look like and where is it located?
  • Does the sore itch or hurt?
  • When did you first notice the sore? Have you ever had similar sores in the past?
  • What are your sexual habits?
  • Do you have any other symptoms such as drainage from the penis, painful urination, or signs of infection?

Different tests may be done depending on the possible cause. These may include blood tests, cultures, or biopsies.

Treatment will depend on the cause. Your provider may ask you to avoid sexual activity or use a condom for a while.

References

Augenbraun MH. Genital skin and mucous membrane lesions. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 108.

Link RE, Rosen T. Cutaneous diseases of the external genitalia. In: Wein AJ, Kavoussi LR, Partin AW, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 16.

Workowski KA, Bolan GA; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2015. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2015;64(RR-03):1-137. PMID: 26042815 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26042815.

Review Date: 
8/26/2017
Reviewed By: 
Peter J Chen, MD, FACOG, Associate Professor of OBGYN at Cooper Medical School at Rowan University, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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