Genital sores - male

Alternative names 
Sores or ulcers on the male genitals

A male genital sore is any sore or lesion that appears on the male genitalia.


Sores or lesions on the male genitalia may have many causes. Often, the lesions of most concern are those seen with sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Genital herpes, syphilis, chancroid, granuloma inguinale, lymphogranuloma venereum are all associated with ulcers on the genitals.

Other lesions in this area may be caused by venereal warts, molluscum contagiosum, as well as non-sexually transmitted diseases. All cases should be promptly evaluated by a medical professional.

Itching, painful urination, drainage from the penis or pain at the site of the sore may accompany genital lesions. These lesions can be singular or multiple, and they may also be present elsewhere on the body (such as the mouth and throat).

Common Causes

  • Genital herpes simplex  
  • Syphilis, primary and syphilis, secondary  
  • Chancroid  
  • Granuloma inguinale  
  • Lymphogranuloma venereum  
  • Viral skin infections (including genital warts)  
  • Molluscum contagiosum  
  • Allergic reactions  
  • Behcet’s disease

Home Care
Avoid self treatment before seeing a doctor. It can mask symptoms and make diagnosis more difficult. Refrain from sexual contact until you undergo medical evaluation.

Call your health care provider if

  • There are any unexplained genital lesions.  
  • If new lesions appear in other parts of your body.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office
The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed.
Medical history questions documenting your symptom in detail may include:

  • Type of lesion       o Open areas (ulcer)       o Blisters       o Pustule       o Papule       o Nodule  
  • Other descriptors       o Is the lesion painful?       o Does it itch?       o What color is the lesion?       o Does the border look distinct (sharp) or blurry?  
  • Time pattern       o When did you first notice the lesion?       o How long have you had it?       o Have you ever had a similar lesion in the past?  
  • Distribution       o Single versus multiple lesions  
  • Location       o Exactly where on the genitals is the lesion located?       o Are there other lesions elsewhere on the body?  
  • Other       o Is there drainage from the penis?       o Is there painful urination?       o What are your sexual habits?       o Is there painful sexual intercourse?       o Any fevers, chills or enlarged lymph nodes?

The physical examination will include detailed examination of the genitals and pelvis, skin, lymph nodes, mouth, and throat.

DIAGNOSTIC TESTS that may be performed include:

  • Blood tests such as CBC or blood differential  
  • Culture or biopsy (see skin or mucosal biopsy culture) of the lesion(s)

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause and may include antiviral medicines, antibiotics or other agents. Your doctor may ask you to avoid sexual activity or use a condom for a period of time depending on the diagnosis.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Brenda A. Kuper, M.D.

Medical Encyclopedia

  A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | 0-9

All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.