The skin is the largest organ of the human body, and it serves several roles, including as a protective barrier against the external environment.
Like any other part of the body, the genital region is susceptible to a range of skin diseases. These conditions can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, and even life-threatening.
In this online article, Dr George Kravvas explores six unique genital skin diseases, their causes, symptoms, and available treatment options.
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). This viral infection can cause painful sores and blisters on or around the genital area. It can also lead to flu-like symptoms during the initial outbreak. Genital herpes is a lifelong condition, but careful use of antiviral medications can help suppress the condition and reduce the frequency of outbreaks.
Genital warts are caused by certain low-risk strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). These warts appear as small growths on the genital and perianal areas. Genital warts are contagious and can be transmitted through touch or sexual contact. Treatment options include topical preparations, cryotherapy, and laser therapy. Assessment of the immune system’s health and vaccination against HPV may be recommended in some treatment resistant cases.
Jock Itch (Tinea Cruris)
Jock itch is a fungal infection that affects the groin and inner thighs. It causes itching, redness, and a rash in the genital area. This condition is more common in individuals who are prone to sweating or those who wear tight-fitting clothing. Antifungal preparations or tablets are effective in treating this condition.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune/autoinflammatory skin condition that can affect various parts of the body, including the genital region. Genital psoriasis can cause red, scaly or glistening patches, and itch or discomfort. Treatment may include topical preparations, and moisturisers. In some severe cases, systemic treatment with tablets of injectable biologics may be necessary.
Balanitis is an inflammation of the head of the penis (glans), and posthitis is inflammation of the foreskin in uncircumcised men. It can be caused by several underlying conditions, including psoriasis, lichen sclerosus, precancer, and cancer. Symptoms may include redness, swelling, itching, and discomfort. Treatment involves maintaining good hygiene, and careful use of topical medications. In some resistant cases circumcision may also be required.
Lichen sclerosus is a common inflammatory and scarring condition that affects the genital area and is a recognised risk factor for the development of genital pre-cancer and cancer. It is caused by the long-term exposure of susceptible tissues to micro-amounts of urine. The symptoms are those of itch or discomfort, splitting, redness, and shiny/white scar-like areas. Lichen sclerosus can permanently alter the architecture of the genitals. Untreated or partially-treated disease in men can lead to tightness of the foreskin, and in women it can lead to complete loss of the lips (labia) and the clitoris. Treatment can be achieved by maintaining good hygiene, careful use of topical preparations, and in some men with circumcision.
Genital skin diseases can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life and sexual health. It's important to seek medical attention if you suspect you have any of these conditions. Additionally, undertaking regular check-ups with a specialist healthcare provider can help prevent or diagnose a condition at its early stages. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can lead to better outcomes and improved well-being.
Dr George Kravvas is a leading consultant dermatologist with expertise in all skin conditions, and a specialist interest in genital skin diseases. You can schedule an appointment with Dr Kravvas through his Top Doctors profile.