What causes pain in the penis?

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Many conditions can cause penis pain, and it can range from mild to severe. Pain may occur at rest, during sexual activity, or when urinating.

While a person can sometimes get relief from penis pain at home, some underlying causes may need medical treatment.

This article looks at the possible causes of penis pain, as well as the additional symptoms and treatment options for each.

Causes of penis pain include:

Peyronie’s disease

Peyronie’s disease occurs when scar tissue creates plaque that builds up on the top or bottom of the penis.

The cause of Peyronie’s disease is still unclear, but doctors believe it to be a result of scarring to the penis. Scarring may be due to an autoimmune disease or a severe or repeated injury to the penis.

Symptoms of Peyronie’s disease include:

  • erectile dysfunction or pain during an erection
  • pain during sex
  • a curve in the penis
  • lumps on the side of the penis
  • the penis becoming narrower or shorter than usual

A person should see a doctor if they notice any of these symptoms. Peyronie’s disease can sometimes go away without treatment. Other people with Peyronie’s disease may require:

  • oral medication
  • medication injected into the plaque
  • ultrasound or radiation therapy to break up the scar tissue and reduce plaque
  • shockwave therapy, which uses electroshock waves to break up the scar tissue and reduce plaque

If symptoms are severe and do not improve, a person may require surgery.


Balanitis refers to when the head of the penis becomes inflamed. This inflammation can happen in people who have not had circumcision, especially if they do not wash or dry the area underneath the foreskin properly.

Other causes of balanitis can include:

  • using strong soap or chemicals on the penis
  • diabetes
  • obesity

Symptoms of balanitis include:

  • a rash
  • discharge
  • swelling
  • itching
  • tenderness or pain

If a person does not seek treatment for balanitis, it can cause phimosis, wherein the foreskin becomes too tight to pull back from the head of the penis.

Treatment options for balanitis include:

  • topical antibiotic, antifungal, or antiseptic ointment
  • topical steroids
  • a topical astringent solution


Priapism causes a prolonged erection without any sexual stimulation. It can be very painful.

In some cases, the cause is unknown. In other cases, however, priapism can be a result of other conditions. These conditions may include trauma to the genitals or spinal cord, sickle cell disease, or pelvic health conditions.

Priapism can be a serious medical condition, and people should seek medical help if they have a prolonged, painful erection with no sexual stimulation or an erection that lasts for more than 4 hours.

A person can try taking a cold shower, applying an ice pack, or climbing stairs to relieve the erection at first.

Medical treatment may include:

  • pain medications, such as opiates
  • injecting medication into the penis to allow normal blood circulation
  • creating a small hole or passage, called a shunt, to allow normal blood flow between the penis and the rest of the body

Sexually transmitted infections

People may experience pain in the penis due to a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Symptoms of an STI can include:

  • painful ejaculation
  • yellow, white, or clear discharge
  • lumps around genitals
  • pain or a burning sensation when urinating
  • pain during sex
  • a rash or itchiness

Treatment for STIs can include:

  • antibiotics for bacterial STIs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis
  • medications to treat symptoms of viral STIs, such as herpes

Urinary tract infections

If bacteria enter the urinary tract, it can cause a urinary tract infection (UTI). They are more common in females, but they can also affect males. Generally, these infections are quite common.

In addition to penis pain, symptoms of a UTI in males may include:

  • pain or a burning sensation when urinating
  • feeling the need to urinate when bladder is empty
  • a frequent urge to urinate
  • blood in the urine

A doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics to treat a UTI.


Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate, which can cause pain in the penis and pelvic area. Bacterial infections, nerve inflammation, and injuries can all cause prostatitis.

Symptoms of prostatitis include:

  • difficulty urinating
  • pain or burning when urinating
  • pain in the penis, testicles, or bladder
  • painful ejaculation

People can take antibiotics to treat prostatitis. Pain relief medication, prostate massage, and hot compresses can also help ease symptoms.


Urethritis is inflammation of the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine from the bladder through the penis.

Causes of urethritis include:

  • bacteria
  • viruses
  • injury
  • reaction to spermicides or contraceptive lotions

Symptoms may include:

  • an itchy, tender, or swollen penis
  • a frequent urge to urinate
  • burning sensation when urinating
  • small bumps in the groin area
  • pain during sex or ejaculation

A doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics to treat urethritis.


Phimosis occurs when the foreskin tightens so much that it is too tight to pull back. It is common in young children before the foreskin loosens, but it can also cause painful symptoms in teenagers and adults.

Treatment for phimosis usually includes applying a steroid cream to the foreskin daily. Taking pain relievers may also help.


Paraphimosis is a condition in which people are unable to pull the foreskin forward over the tip of the penis. Paraphimosis is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Additional symptoms include:

  • pain in the penis
  • swelling in the tip of the penis
  • the head of the penis turning a different color, such as blue or red

Treatment for paraphimosis involves reducing the swelling at the tip of the penis to allow the foreskin to return to the correct position.

If doctors are unable to do this, they may make a small incision to reduce the swelling. In some cases, people may need a circumcision.

Penile fracture

A penile fracture occurs when an erect penis is bent, causing a part of it to tear. It is not technically a fracture, as there are no bones in the penis.

Penile fractures are most likely to happen during sex.

Symptoms of a penile fracture include:

  • a popping sound
  • sudden loss of erection
  • bruising and swelling of the penis
  • bleeding from the penis
  • blood in the urine
  • pain
  • difficulty urinating

Anyone with a penile fracture needs emergency medical attention. They may need surgery to drain a buildup of blood and repair any damage to the penis.

Penile cancer

Pain in the penis can sometimes be a symptom of penile cancer, although is more likely to be a result of another condition.

People should see their doctor if they notice any of the following symptoms:

  • changes to the color or thickness of the skin of the penis
  • a lump or crusty bumps on the penis
  • bleeding ulcers
  • bleeding or discharge under the foreskin
  • swelling at the head of the penis
  • lumps under the skin in the groin area

Treatment for penile cancer may include:

  • surgery to remove tumors in the penis
  • circumcision to remove the foreskin
  • radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells
  • chemotherapy


Many different conditions can cause pain in the penis. A doctor can help identify the cause of the pain by discussing a person’s other symptoms.

People may be able to lower their risk of developing a penile health condition by:

  • maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • keeping good personal hygiene
  • using a condom during sex

If a person experiences persistent or severe penis pain, they should speak to a doctor.

Medically reviewed by Elaine K. Luo, M.D.

Written by Beth Sissons

Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.