Genital Psoriasis: Tips for Managing Vaginal and Scrotal Psoriasis | MyPsoriasisTeam

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Genital Psoriasis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Medically reviewed by Florentina Negoi, M.D.
Written by Laurie Berger
Updated on February 12, 2024

Genital psoriasis is one of the most uncomfortable and embarrassing symptoms of psoriasis. Besides itching and pain, having raw, irritated skin “down there” can take a toll on intimacy, sexual activity, and quality of life.

Up to two-thirds of people with psoriasis also develop lesions in the genital area, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF). Although genital psoriasis is very treatable, one study cited in Psoriasis: Targets and Therapy found up to 40 percent of people with severe genital psoriasis lesions didn’t discuss it with their doctors, likely due to fear of judgment or embarrassment.

Finding others who share the same issue has been a relief for members of MyPsoriasisTeam. “Oh, my goodness, I’m not alone!” one member exclaimed after sharing their secret with the community.

“I’ve been too embarrassed to talk about it to anyone. … Just alone and in pain,“ said another.

“It’s painful, itchy, and shame-inducing,” shared a third member.

What Does Genital Psoriasis Feel Like?

Genital psoriasis can be more painful than psoriasis elsewhere on the body. That’s because skin on the pubis, vulva, buttocks, and penis is thinner and more sensitive to scratching, rubbing, or friction — with or without sex. Here’s how members of MyPsoriasisTeam describe the feeling:

  • “Pure torture.”
  • “Drives me mad.”
  • “Feels like I’m on fire.”
  • “Legs rubbing makes the area very sore.”
  • “Scratch until I bleed.”
  • “Man, I’m in itch hell.”

How Does Genital Psoriasis Affect Members’ Lives?

Members of MyPsoriasisTeam share how genital psoriasis has affected their health and overall well-being.


Up to two-thirds of people with psoriasis also develop lesions in the genital area. However, more than 40 percent of people are too embarrassed to discuss genital psoriasis with their doctors.

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Top Symptoms

Between 82 percent and 100 percent of people with genital psoriasis suffer from maddening itching, according to the Psoriasis: Targets and Therapy analysis. “Itching at night is by far the worst symptom I have,” said one MyPsoriasisTeam member.

“When I scratch, I break open and bleed like a sieve. All over my clothes, the floor, my bedsheets. It’s alarming how much blood can come from a little scratch,” explained another member.

Stinging and burning are also common complaints, experienced by 40 percent of people with genital psoriasis, according to the analysis, and about 20 percent report pain as their worst symptom, which can result from cracked, bleeding, or torn skin. “I feel shocking pain that’s caused, I believe, from fissures that form in the creases of my ’downstairs,’ " explained one member.

Sexual Activity

While 72 percent of people with psoriasis have reported feeling reluctance about dating, according to the review, those with genital lesions can be even more likely to avoid relationships and sex. Studies have shown that people with genital psoriasis have less frequent intercourse, reduced sexual desire, and fewer sexual relationships. “I haven’t been intimate with my husband in more than a year because I don’t feel sexy at all!” said one member.

“I’ve lost relationships because of genital psoriasis; it really knocked out my confidence.”

— A MyPsoriasisTeam member

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Not only that, sex can hurt. Members of MyPsoriasisTeam experience pain, stinging, and burning during and after sexual activity. “Intimacy is uncomfortable because the area is so inflamed,” explained one member.

Small skin tears or traumas can trigger flares (known as the Koebner phenomenon) after sexual intercourse. “It has made sex very painful. I bleed because the skin on the head [of my penis] tears. I need lube or it hurts too much,” said one member.

Quality of Life

The stress and stigma of genital psoriasis also affect mental well-being. People with the condition report lower self-esteem than those with psoriasis on other body parts.

Studies also show that people with genital lesions are often more depressed than those without. Women tend to be more sexually distressed than men, according to the study. “I’ve lost relationships because of genital psoriasis; it really knocked out my confidence,” shared one member of MyPsoriasisTeam.

What Does Genital Psoriasis Look Like?

Psoriasis often hits below the belt at some point in the lives of people living with the condition. “As a teenager, I had it on my face. Now in my 50s, my face isn’t bad, but it went south about 10 years ago. Not a happy camper,” shared one member.

Two different types of psoriasis typically occur in the genital area, inverse psoriasis and plaque psoriasis.

Inverse Psoriasis

The most common type of psoriasis affecting the genitals, inverse psoriasis typically appears as smooth, discolored, tight-looking patches in the folds of skin between the upper thigh and the genitals. Inverse psoriasis is more painful than other types and can be made worse by sweat or friction. People with inverse psoriasis on other parts of their bodies have almost an 80 percent risk of developing it in the genital area.

Plaque Psoriasis

Plaque psoriasis is characterized by thick, red, purple, or gray patches and white or silvery scales that can crack and bleed. These scaly patches typically appear on the pubis or upper thighs.

Either type of psoriasis can appear on the vulva, penis, scrotum, or the crease between the buttocks. Psoriasis on the vulva can look like silvery patches or grayish or red plaques outside the vagina or in skin folds. Small red patches most often occur on the glans (tip of the penis) or shaft.

What Causes Genital Psoriasis?

Scientists aren’t sure what causes genital psoriasis. However, scratching or consistent rubbing and pressure can create soreness, cracking, and bleeding that may lead to infections.

Genital psoriasis is often mistaken for other conditions, such as a sexually transmitted disease, allergic reaction, or yeast infection. Doctors often fail to ask about or examine these areas, and people with the condition are sometimes reluctant to talk about lesions in their genital areas. Consequently, people with genital psoriasis may be undertreated or suffer unnecessarily.

“I was too embarrassed to talk to any doctors about it,” a MyPsoriasisTeam member said. “When I did, they brushed it off as a yeast infection, even though I didn’t have any of those symptoms. Finally, last year I was diagnosed with genital psoriasis, was told it was a ’life sentence,’ and was prescribed a topical cream that did nothing. Haven’t been back to the doctor since, but I’ve been suffering.”

It’s important to undergo a clinical exam by a licensed dermatologist to get proper diagnosis and treatment options for your skin condition.

Treatments for Genital Psoriasis

There’s no known cure for genital psoriasis, but it can be managed with medications, topical treatment, and some natural remedies. Sensitive areas require a different treatment plan than psoriasis on other parts of your body. A dermatologist can recommend the best options for you.

Topical Medications

Topicals applied to the skin help moisturize dry patches, reduce pain and itch, and slow down inflammation. Low-strength topical corticosteroids are typically the first-line treatment for mild to moderate genital psoriasis. Side effects include skin thinning, which is why steroids are only used for two to four weeks.

Nonsteroidal creams and ointments that are typically used for eczema, such as tacrolimus (Protopic) and pimecrolimus (Elidel), are effective second-line treatments for genital psoriasis. Prescribed off-label, these topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs) act on the immune system to reduce skin inflammation. Common side effects include local burning or irritation.

Vitamin D analogues, such as calcipotriene (Dovonex) cream, are second-line treatments often prescribed in combination with topical corticosteroids and TCIs. Side effects include irritation in skin folds. Other second-line treatments include emollients, coal tar-based products, and antimicrobial agents that prevent infection in skin folds.

Systemic Treatments

Doctors often prescribe systemic treatments when symptoms don’t respond to topicals, and having psoriasis on the genitals is a factor that may make someone a candidate for these drugs.

These might include oral or injectable immunosuppressives such as methotrexate, or apremilast (Otezla), or biologics. There are different groups of biologics approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including:

  • TNF inhibitors such as bimekizumab-bkzx (Bimzelx), adalimumab (Humira), and etanercept (Enbrel)
  • Interleukin (IL)-17A inhibitors such as secukinumab (Cosentyx) and ixekizumab (Taltz)

“I’ve been clear of genital psoriasis for over a year now by taking methotrexate! Most all other plaque breakouts have disappeared over 90 percent!” shared one member of MyPsoriasisTeam.

“I’ve been using Cosentyx and now Taltz. I’m 90 percent psoriasis-free for the past six years,” said another.

Some members have reported their lesions have returned once they stopped taking a medication. “Clobetasol clears it right up, but it comes back in a few weeks,” said one. “Taltz totally cleared my psoriasis with one exception — my genital area! I’m going to have to go back to steroid ointments.”

Although phototherapy and coal-tar therapy are sometimes used to treat genital psoriasis, the American Academy of Dermatology cautions that both options have increased risk of genital cancer.

Nonmedicinal Treatments

Various natural and home remedies can help relieve symptoms of genital psoriasis, protect your skin, and ease the pain of sexual activity. Try the following to remedy itching:

  • Cold packs or compresses
  • Moisturizers chilled in the refrigerator
  • Aloe vera juice
  • An apple cider vinegar soak (one part vinegar to four parts water)
  • Calamine lotion
  • Colloidal oatmeal baths and creams

Skin Care Tips

Consider using the skin care tips below to help reduce further irritation when living with genital psoriasis.

  • Cleansing — Wash frequently with mild cleansers. Avoid irritating antibacterial soaps or body washes. One member makes their own: “I shower with coconut oil and jojoba oil, mixed to a whipped cream-like texture. I’ve not used soap in 10 years.”
  • Warm baths — Bathe in lukewarm or cool water and moisturize immediately after.
  • Daily moisturizing — Use fragrance-free moisturizer daily, after bathing or whenever the affected area feels dry.
  • Quality toilet paper — Use soft paper to avoid irritation, and wipe well. Urine and feces can irritate genital lesions and trigger flares.
  • Loose clothing — Choose breathable cotton undergarments and pants that don’t rub or irritate skin. “My dermatologist suggested men’s boxer shorts and skirts in cotton, linen, rayon or bamboo — and no polyester or synthetic fabrics,” shared one member. Another added, “No underwear when I’m at home.”

Intimacy Do’s and Don’ts

When you’re intimate with your partner, take the following precautions.

  • Cleanse before sex — Use mild, fragrance-free cleansers to remove psoriasis medication that could affect your partner.
  • Use lubes — Lubricants and lubricated condoms can reduce friction during intercourse.
  • Modify your position — Communicate with your partner to find a position that minimizes rubbing on any irritated areas during sexual activity.
  • Know when to avoid sex — If skin on or around the genitals is raw, cracked, or bleeding, abstain from sexual activity to avoid further irritation and pain.

Member Tips for Managing Genital Psoriasis

MyPsoriasisTeam members have shared their suggestions for managing the symptoms of genital psoriasis. Check with your doctor before adding or changing your treatment routine, even if a product is available over the counter.

  • “I use pure vitamin E oil for my spots ‘down there.’”
  • “Try witch hazel. It’ll burn for a few seconds but takes the itch away.”
  • “Cortisone cream with vitamins A, D, and E works best for me.”
  • “Dove soap for sensitive skin.”
  • “Oatmeal bath and clobetasol ointment used sparingly when itching and burning gets unbearable.”
  • “Psoriasis clinic at Ein Bokek at the Dead Sea, Israel. My skin cleared completely — the only time ever!”
  • “Magic Dead Sea soap cleared it up.”
  • “I use InterDry, a moisture-wicking fabric with antimicrobial silver that manages skin-on-skin irritation.”

You Are Not Alone

By joining MyPsoriasisTeam, the social network and online support group for those living with psoriasis, you gain a support group of more than 125,000 members strong. Genital psoriasis is one of the most discussed topics.

How does genital psoriasis affect your intimate relationships? Has your doctor prescribed treatments to manage your symptoms? What helps you successfully get through each day? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Updated on February 12, 2024
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    Florentina Negoi, M.D. attended the Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bucharest, Romania, and is currently enrolled in a rheumatology training program at St. Mary Clinical Hospital. Learn more about her here.
    Laurie Berger has been a health care writer, reporter, and editor for the past 14 years. Learn more about her here.

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