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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 at other places on the body, such as in the mouth and throat.

Home Care

If you notice a genital sore:

  • See a health care provider right away. Do not try to treat yourself because self-care can make it harder for the provider to find the cause of the problem.
  • Abstain from all sexual contact until you've been examined by your provider.

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. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 106.

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.

Scott GR. Sexually transmitted infections. In: Ralston SH, Penman ID, Strachan MWJ, Hobson RP, eds. Davidson's Principles and Practice of Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 13.

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: 6/30/2019
Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. 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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