Lichen planus can affect the skin of the genital area, as well as other parts of the body, and can cause severe itching and the appearance of a penis rash. Understanding the signs and symptoms of this inflammatory condition can help men to get the treatment needed to stop penis itching and reduce the appearance of lesions and discoloration.
What is lichen planus?
Lichen planus is an inflammatory condition that affects the skin and mucus membranes. The areas of the body most often affected are the external genitals, mouth, inner forearms and ankles. It occurs when the immune system attacks the cells of the skin and mucus membranes, similar to an allergic reaction.
Symptoms of lichen planus
Symptoms include flat-topped, purplish bumps that are sometimes mistaken for warts, especially when they occur on the genitals. The sores may sometimes break open and then scab over. In the mouth, lichen planus may appear as a white, lacy film. Severe itching, especially in the genital area, may accompany the skin lesions. Lesions in the mouth (or in the vagina, in women) may lead to painful ulcers. Scratching these is a bad idea, because breaking the sores increases the risk of secondary infection. Hair and nail loss may also occur.
Symptoms of Lichen planus on the penis resemble those of a variety of other penile skin conditions, including certain STDs; any unusual sores or lesions on the penis should be evaluated by a doctor.
Is it contagious?
Lichen planus is not contagious; people cannot “catch” it from someone else or transmit it to another person. However, until a positive diagnosis has been obtained, it is best to avoid sexual contact to reduce the risk of passing a contagious condition to a partner.
Causes and risk factors
The precise cause of the immune response is not yet understood, but it is believed to be linked to inflammation. Certain individuals are more likely to experience the condition; mainly middle-aged adults. Lichen planus may be triggered by certain health conditions, as well as some medications; possible triggers include:
- Flu vaccine;
- Hepatitis B vaccine;
- Hepatitis C infection;
- Certain pigments (paints) and metals;
- NSAIDS like aspirin or ibuprofen;
- Some medications used to treat heart disease, arthritis and high blood pressure.
People with lichen planus may develop scars; painful or itchy sores on the penis may lead to temporary sexual dysfunction. There is some evidence that men with lichen planus on the penis may be at greater risk for developing penile skin cancer.
Diagnosis and treatment
Lichen planus may be diagnosed by performing a skin biopsy. Men with symptoms may also be tested for hepatitis C and various allergies. Unless the symptoms are severe, this condition can generally be managed without prescription medications; it generally clears up on its own.
Five at-home tips for easing the itch
Men with lichen planus sores on the penis may find the following at-home remedies to be helpful in easing the itch and soreness:
- Soaking in a colloidal oatmeal bath;
- Aloe vera gel;
- Cool compresses;
- Over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams;
- Vitamin A and D supplements.
Preventive care for the penis skin
As the cause of lichen planus is not known, it is not possible to prevent lichen planus; virtually anyone can develop the condition. However, keeping the penis skin clean and well moisturized and boosting the body’s natural resistance to disease through use of a penis vitamin cream (most health professionals recommend Man 1 Man Oil) may help to stave off common skin infections, as well as promoting an overall sleek and supple appearance. Nutrients such as vitamins A, C and D may also help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, scars and blemishes that affect the penile skin.