Man with hands over groin wondering what the causes of penis sores are

What Are the Causes of Penis Sores?

Medically reviewed on Nov 17, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Genital tissues are very sensitive and easily irritated by viruses, bacteria, and germs. As a result, the penis can develop sores, blisters, and genital warts that are often painful, uncomfortable, or itchy.[1]

The most common causes for sores on the penis are infections that are spread through sexual contact; however, genital sores may also develop from rashes and allergic reactions.[1]

Sexually Transmitted Reasons for Sores on Penis

Participating in unsafe sex, or sex without a condom, can put you at risk of contracting several sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can impact your genital health. In most cases, genital warts and sores will appear on the penis, but they can also form on the scrotum, anus, or male urethra.[2]

Possible STIs that can cause penile sores include [1]:

  • Genital herpes – There are two strains of the herpes virus, but it’s usually the HSV-2 strain that affects your genitals. When the penis comes in contact with the skin of a person infected with the herpes simplex virus, particularly if you don’t use a condom or dental dam, herpes sores can develop. These sores can burn, itch, or cause [herpes discharge]( Your partner doesn’t have to have active sores for you to become infected. You can also contract genital herpes through anal sex and oral sex. Unfortunately, there is no cure for genital herpes, although sores can disappear after the first outbreak. To manage the infection, healthcare providers will prescribe antiviral ointment to treat the herpes sores, as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to manage any penis pain.[3]
  • Chlamydia – You can contract chlamydia through intercourse, anal sex, oral sex, or sharing sex toys, as vaginal fluid and semen carry the bacteria. Roughly 1.5 million cases of chlamydia are reported each year, with the highest demographics being men who have sex with men (MSM), black and non-Hispanic populations, and young people aged 15 through 24.4 While most cases of chlamydia are asymptomatic, meaning patients don’t experience any symptoms, some men can experience sores, mucus-like discharge from the penis, and a painful or burning sensation when urinating. Fortunately, chlamydia treatment is easy with antibiotics. If left untreated, men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB) can develop epididymitis and fertility issues.[4]
  • Syphilis – Syphilis is a bacteria that spreads through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. There are multiple stages of the infection. During the first stage, which occurs up to 12 weeks after exposure, a smooth, hard sore will develop on the penis, scrotum, anus, rectum, or under the foreskin. It’s painless and will disappear within a few weeks or months, but that doesn’t mean the infection is gone. The next stage is a rash that’s rough and bumpy and can appear across your body. The rash is often coupled with fever, fatigue, and headaches, among other syphilis symptoms. The bacteria will then turn dormant, sometimes for up to 20 years. If left untreated, the bacteria can cause brain, nerve, heart, and eye damage. To treat syphilis, a healthcare provider will prescribe antibiotics.[5]
  • Chancroid – This bacterial infection is considered a sexually transmitted disease, and it’s very contagious. Following infection, soft red sores (that are often painful and leak pus) can form on the genitals. You may also experience raised and bumps on your penis, which can cause penis pain and develop into ulcers. To treat this condition, a healthcare provider will prescribe an antibiotic, which should clear the sores in about two weeks.[6]

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Other Reasons For Sores On Penis

STIs aren’t the only reason why someone might develop sores on the penis. As stated, genital tissues are extremely sensitive and it’s easy for them to become irritated or inflamed. To that end, other possible causes of sores on the penis include:

  • Pubic lice – While pubic lice are most commonly transmitted through sexual activity, they aren’t an STI. Rather, they’re tiny insects that can bite your genitals, causing itching and small bite spots that can develop into sores. To get rid of pubic lice, you can use an over-the-counter shampoo or permethrin lotion to kill the insects. It’s also recommended to wash your fabrics and vacuum your home since the lice can live in clothes, towels, sheets, and blankets.[7]
  • Psoriasis – Psoriasis develops from an overactive immune system, which triggers cells to multiply rapidly. Consequently, men and people AMAB can experience a rash or red bumps on the genitals, as well as itchiness, discomfort, and dryness that can cause the skin to break and bleed. If you’re impacted by psoriasis, a healthcare provider may recommend topical lotions, UV treatment, biologics, or retinoids to provide some relief.[8]
  • Behcet’s disease – This auto-inflammatory condition can damage the arteries and veins, which can cause both oral and genital ulcers. While there is no cure for Behcet’s disease, a healthcare provider may prescribe medications like NSAIDs, topical corticosteroids, colchicine, and/or immunosuppressive drugs.[9]

Manage Your Genital Health With Everlywell

There are many reasons why someone may develop sores on the penis. While the most common reason for genital chancres is STIs, sores can also develop from other conditions that aren’t directly tied to sexual activity.

No matter the cause, penile sores can be uncomfortable and painful. If you have concerns, speak with an Everlywell provider through our easy and convenient telehealth services and receive STD treatment online. We also provide discreet at-home tests for chlamydia and syphilis to help you identify why you might be experiencing sores on your penis.

What Is Vaginal Itching?

How Long Do Genital Warts Last?

2 Types Of Herpes Discharge: What to Know


  1. Genital Ulcers. Cleveland Clinic. Published June 21, 2022. URL. Accessed October 18, 2023.
  2. Genital sores - male. MedlinePlus. Published July 13, 2021. URL. Accessed October 18, 2023.
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Published May 17, 2022. URL. Accessed October 18, 2023.
  4. Chlamydia. Cleveland Clinic. Published February 6, 2023. URL. Accessed October 18, 2023.
  5. Syphilis. Cleveland Clinic. Published December 27, 2022. URL. Accessed October 18, 2023.
  6. Chancroid (Soft Chancre). Cleveland Clinic. Published February 4, 2022. URL. Accessed October 18, 2023.
  7. Pubic Lice. CDC. URL. Accessed October 18, 2023.
  8. Psoriasis. NIH. Published September 2020. URL. Accessed October 18, 2023.
  9. Adil A, et al. Behcet Disease. StatPearls. Published February 22, 2023. URL. Accessed October 18, 2023.
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