Alternative names
Pain - penis; Penis pain

Penis pain is any pain or discomfort in the penis. Priapism, which can cause serious pain, is a persistent, painful erection which does not resolve.

Common Causes

  • Trauma (such as from excessive manipulation)  
  • Bites, either human or insect  
  • Pimples or any surface lesion  
  • Genital herpes (visible lesions or sores are often preceded by 5 or 6 days of burning, itching or pain at the site of infection)  
  • Inflammation of the prostate gland (prostatitis)  
  • Syphilis (can produce a painless penile sore)  
  • Nonspecific urethritis caused by chlamydia and gonorrhea  
  • Infection under the foreskin of uncircumcised men (balanitis)  
  • Reiter’s syndrome  
  • Priapism (persistent erection)  
  • Peyronie’s disease  
  • Cancer of the penis  
  • Infected penile prosthesis  
  • sickle cell anemia

Home Care

Home Care depends on the cause. Consult your health care provider about treatment of the cause. Ice packs may help ease the pain.

If penis pain is caused by a sexually-transmitted disease, it is important for the sexual partner to also be treated.

Priapism is a medical emergency, seek care at once. For penis pain caused by priapism that is being treated, consult your health care provider about treatment for the underlying disorder.

Call your health care provider if

Call your health care provider if you notice any of the following:

  • Pain persists for a prolonged period of time.  
  • You have a persistent erection (priapism). Go to the emergency room, call the local emergency number (such as 911), or see your health care provider immediately. Permanent loss of erectile function may result if left untreated for too long.  
  • Pain is associated with other unexplained symptoms.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office
The health care provider will perform a physical examination and will obtain a medical history. Medical history questions documenting penis pain in detail may include the following:

  • When did it develop?  
  • Is it always present?  
  • Is it a painful erection (priapism)?  
  • Is there pain when the penis is not erect?  
  • Is the pain in all of the penis or just a specific part of it?  
  • Are there any open sores or other lesions?  
  • Has there been a trauma to the area?  
  • Are you at risk for any sexually-transmitted disease?  
  • Have you had a known exposure to a sexually-transmitted disease?  
  • What other symptoms are also present?

The physical examination will probably include a detailed examination of the penis, testicles, scrotum, and groin.

The pain can be treated once its cause is identified. For priapism, a Urinary catheter may be inserted to relieve urine retention, and medications or surgery (occasionally) are recommended if necessary. Antibiotics, antiviral medications, or other antimicrobials may be prescribed for infections. Rarely, circumcision is advised for chronic infection under the foreskin.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Sharon M. Smith, M.D.

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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.