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Medical Dermatology Conditions

Genital Dermatoses

Genital Dermatosis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Genital dermatosis is a term that is used to describe skin conditions caused by various medical issues that affect the genitals. Usually, these skin conditions bring about a genital rash and can occur on any part of the male or female genital area.

Rashes are typically red in color, may be painful or irritated, and may include bumps or sores. If you experience any skin rash for unexplained reasons, you should see your primary care physician for diagnosis and treatment of genital dermatosis.

Based on the underlying causes genital dermatosis can be classified into several categories, including parasitic infections, sexually transmitted infections, other types of bacterial, fungal and viral infections, as well as infections caused by skin hypersensitivity and autoimmune disorders.

Parasitic Infections

  • Pubic Lice

Pubic lice are small, crawling parasites that lay eggs in the genital area and are usually transmitted through sexual contact.

They’re most commonly found in adolescents. Bites of pubic lice can cause irritation, which can, later on, lead to pain and small wounds. The rash is red and painful.

  • Body Lice

Body lice are similar to pubic lice, but they are more prominent. They live in clothes and feed on blood.

They can cause an irritating rash on the skin.

  • Scabies

Scabies is an irritating skin rash that is brought about by tiny bugs called Sarcoptes scabiei1. They tunnel into the skin, particularly in the evening.

This results in small pimple-like bumps that cause extreme itchiness.

Sexually-transmitted Infections

  • Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a sexually-transmitted infection usually brought about by herpes simplex-2 infection (HSV-2).

It can be tender and can cause irritating sores in the genital region that may weep, ulcerate, and crust.

  • Genital Warts

Genital warts are a sexually-transmitted infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) HPV 16 or HPV 18. They are characterized by small and soft growths that are painful, irritating, and itchy.

  • Syphilis

Syphilis is a bacterial infection and is the most common STI that is brought about by the bacterium Treponema pallidum2. It brings out a rash that can be found anywhere in the body. It can cause serious medical issues if left untreated.

Other Common Fungal and Viral Infections

  • Jock Itch

This is a fungal infection which is also known as ringworm on the groin area. The rash is characterized as red, tender, peeling, and it may even crust.

  • Intertrigo (Intertriginous Dermatitis)

Intertrigo is a fungal infection that typically occurs in warm and moist areas of the body such as skin folds and the area underneath the buttocks.

The rash is characterized as red, macerated, and scaling on the edges. It can cause tenderness, stinging, or itchiness.

Babies can also be affected by intertrigo – this is commonly referred to as diaper rash as the infection develops in the warm and soggy environment created by diapers.

It’s red and textured and may include ulcerations and weeping.

  • Yeast Infection

A yeast infection is a fungal infection caused by the Candida albicans fungi that generally live on the skin. It affects the vagina and usually happens because of antibiotic use, diabetes, or pregnancy. It is characterized by a thick white discharge and an itchy rash.

Although typically found in women, men can also be affected by Candida fungi. The infection results in an inflamed, red rash on the groin, buttocks, and thighs.

Given that the Candida fungi flourish in wet and warm areas, individuals that have a habit of wearing tight clothing and those who are prone to excessive sweating have a higher risk of developing this particular type of infection.

  • Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral infection brought about by a poxvirus. It affects the skin and is characterized by small and firm bumps.

The lesions may be irritated and red. It can be transmitted through skin contact or a contaminated towel or clothing.

  • Balanitis

Balanitis is an inflammation of the prepuce, the glands, or the head of the penis that is usually a consequence of poor hygiene3. It causes inflammation, redness, pain on urination, and penile discharge.

It may also be brought about by hypersensitivity reactions, a yeast infection, or an STI such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, or syphilis.

Skin Hypersensitivities and Autoimmune Disorders

Aside from infections and parasites, genital dermatosis may also be a result of skin hypersensitivities and autoimmune disorders.

  • Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a common type of rash that ensues when the skin comes into contact with an allergen or a toxic substance4.

Latex is an allergen that may create rashes in the genital area since it’s commonly utilized in condoms.

  • Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common skin condition characterized by pinkish, flaky, and itchy rash found anywhere in the body.

The reason for this is unknown; however, doctors speculate it’s an immune system problem. In men, psoriasis may sometimes lead to lesions in the genital area.

  • Lichen Sclerosis

Lichen sclerosis may be brought about by a reaction towards spirochete bacteria. This condition causes white spots to form on the vulva along with vaginal itching.

Untreated, lichen sclerosis can increase the risk of yeast infections and even growths.

  • Lichen Planus

Although less common than lichen scleroris, lichen planus is a bothersome skin lesion. Doctors are uncertain of the specific reason; however, it’s believed to be due to an allergen or an immune system problem. It causes lesions in the genital area.

  • Reactive Arthritis (Reiter’s disease)

Reiter’s disease brings about joint inflammation and is typically the result of an infection caused by certain types of microorganisms, such as Chlamydia, Salmonella, or Shigella. Chlamydia can also cause genital discharge.


Common symptoms that appear in any type of genital dermatosis include:

  • Rash or red, bumpy skin
  • Itchiness or sensitivity around the rash
  • Skin dryness
  • Patches of reddish, brownish, or greyish skin
  • Small blisters that may burst open and release fluid
  • Thick or scaly skin


Treatment for genital dermatosis typically addresses the cause of the infection. For example, yeast infections, as a rule, can be relieved with over-the-counter antifungal medications.

Since genital dermatosis may cause itching, over the counter creams such as hydrocortisone can be useful. A doctor may in some cases recommend a cream that alleviates itching, while at the same time treating the actual cause.

Since it’s a bacterial disease, syphilis is treated with antibiotics. Genital warts are treated with topical medication, such as imiquimod, which is an immunomodifier.

Lice can be removed with treatment shampoos or body washes, and scabies is treated with creams. Genital herpes can’t be treated, yet can be successfully controlled with medication.

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