A genital rash is a skin sign that can be caused by a number of different health reasons and can occur on any part of the male or female genital area.
Between the many possible causes for a genital rash, ranging from infections that are treatable to sexually transmitted infections (STDs), allergies, and autoimmune disorders.
Rashes tend to be reddish in color, may be painful, itchy, or include bumps or sores.
Some of the most common causes of genital rashes are infections:
- Jock itch, a fungal infection, or ringworm of the groin area. The rash is red, itchy, and scaly, and it may blister.
- Vaginal yeast infection, affects females and often occurs as a result of taking antibiotics. It causes itching, redness, swelling, and white vaginal discharge.
- Molloscum contagiosum, a viral infection that affects the skin and appears as firm, isolated, round bumps. They may be itchy and inflamed.
- Balanitis, an inflammation of the foreskin or the head of the penis that’s usually caused by poor hygiene. It leads to itchiness, redness, and a discharge.
Infecting parasites are another possible cause of a genital rash:
- Pubic lice are tiny insects that lay eggs in the genital area and are most often spread from person to person through sexual contact. An infestation of pubic lice causes itchiness and sometimes sores.
- Body lice are larger than pubic lice. They live in clothing and on the skin, and feed on blood. They cause an itchy rash on the skin.
- Scabies is an itchy skin rash that’s caused by very small mites. They burrow into the skin and cause intense itching, especially at night.
Allergies and autoimmune disorders are other possible reasons for a genital rash:
- Contact dermatitis is a common type of rash caused when skin comes into contact with an allergen or with an irritant like a harsh chemical substance. Latex is an allergen that may produce a rash in the genital area because it’s commonly used in condoms.
- Psoriasis is a common skin condition. The cause is unknown, but doctors suspect it’s an autoimmune disorder. It can produce a pinkish, scaly, itchy rash anywhere on the body. In men, psoriasis may also produce sores in the genital area.
- Reactive arthritis, or Reiter’s syndrome, is an arthritis that occurs in reaction to an infection by certain bacteria, such as Chlamydia, Salmonella , or Shigella. Chlamydia can cause genital discharge.
STDs are another possible cause of genital rashes and can include:
- Genital herpes, a virus that can produce painful, blister-like sores in the genital area.
- Genital warts, caused by the human papillomavirus. They’re small and flesh-colored, and may be itchy.
- Syphilis, a bacterial infection that’s spread through sexual contact. It produces a rash that can be anywhere on the body. The rash isn’t necessarily itchy.
Preventing Genital Rash
Preventing a genital rash, particularly recurring genital rashes, will depend heavily on the cause of the rash itself.
To prevent rashes caused by STDs, you can:
- Always use barrier methods that protect against STDs, such as condoms and dental dams.
- Take medications to manage pre existing conditions like herpes.
To prevent rashes from allergic reactions, you can:
- Take antihistamines when at increased risk.
- Avoid the allergens that trigger the reaction.
Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle will keep you in the best shape you can be in, which may boost your immune system and help you fight off any infections that could cause genital rashes.
If you have a specific concern, consult your doctor.
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