What causes penis pain?

The reason why your penis hurts

There are a variety of potential causes of penis pain and a variety of ways in which it may be experienced. If a result of injury, for example, the pain may be sharp and sudden, whereas if it is the result of an underlying condition, it may be milder and more gradual in nature. Some men may also experience pain during sex. 

Men experiencing penis pain, whether affecting the base, shaft, head, urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis) or foreskin, should consult a doctor as a matter of urgency. This is especially true if the pain occurs during an erection, it prevents urination or if it is accompanied by discharge, sores or swelling. 

Find a number of potential causes of penis pain below. 

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI) 
  • Although more common in women, men can also experience urinary tract infections (UTIs). Pain as a result of a UTI will be felt in the urethra, typically while urinating. It may be sharp, intense and burning in sensation, and could be accompanied by blood in the urine and the need to urinate frequently. 
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

A number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause penis pain. These include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Genital herpes
  • Syphilis

Men who have recently engaged in unprotected sex, especially with multiple partners, are particularly susceptible to STIs. The penis pain that results from an STI may be burning or itchy in sensation and may be accompanied by discharge, redness or a rash.

Peyronie’s disease

Peyronie’s disease results in pain during an erection. Caused by an inflammation of the scar tissue in the shaft of the penis adjacent to the tissue that becomes firm during an erection, it may also cause the penis to bend when erect. 

The disease can occur for a number of reasons, including bleeding inside the penis and a connective tissue disorder. The condition may also run in families. 

Priapism

Priapism is a condition that causes prolonged and painful erections. Most common in young boys and men of between 20 and 50, it can occur for a number of reasons, including as a side-effect of certain drugs (including drugs to treat erectile dysfunction), mental health disorders, blood clotting disorders and alcohol or illegal drug use. 

As it can lead to long-term health problems, priapism should be treated right away. 

Balanitis

Balanitis refers to an infection of the foreskin. It is usually the result not washing under the foreskin regularly and is most common in uncircumcised men, although circumcised men can also develop the condition. As well as irritation felt on the head of the penis, it may also result in itchiness, redness, swelling and a foul smell. 

Injury

Penis pain, similarly to pain anywhere else on the body, can result from direct injury. Injury may occur as a result of:

  • Playing sports, especially contact sports such as football and rugby
  • Rough or prolonged sex
  • The use of penis rings, sometimes used to prolong an erection
  • The insertion of an object into the urethra
  • Penile cancer 
  • Penile cancer is a rare form of cancer, most typical in men over the age of 50. Penile cancer can cause pain in the penis, as well as a sore or growth, bleeding under the foreskin, a foul-smelling discharge and a thickening of the foreskin. 

Men who suspect penile cancer should consult a doctor as a matter of urgency.  

Other causes

Other potential causes of penis pain include:

  • An infected penile implant
  • Activities such as horse riding or motorcycle riding
  • An allergic reaction (from a soap or detergent, for example)
  • Bladder stones
  • Insect or animal bites
  • Acne on the penis
  • A tight or swollen foreskin

Treatment 

Treatment for penis pain will depend on the underlying cause and its severity. 

A UTI or STI, for example, may be treated using antibiotics, while Peyronie’s disease or cancer may require a more invasive treatment method, such as surgery.

It is important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing penis pain. A doctor will be able to evaluate the cause and recommend the most appropriate course of treatment.  
 

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