Dry penile skin can be itchy, and a close-up view of a parched and papery penis may not be especially appealing. But most men would not consider this more than an inconvenience - and certainly not a sign of poor penis health. The truth is that the skin is the body’s first line of defense against many different diseases, and when it is not in good shape, it can either indicate that an underlying health problem is present or increase the likelihood of developing problems. Here are a few of the diseases and conditions that men should look out for when it comes to dry, stressed penile skin.

1) Yeast infection. Also known as thrush, yeast infection is caused by the Candida albicans yeast, and it can affect men as well as women. Men who have thrush may have penile skin that appears very dry and itchy. Men who are intact may develop cuts or tears in the foreskin that can be quite painful. A whitish, chunky discharge may also be present and have a distinctive yeasty or fishy odor. Over-the-counter antifungal creams are generally effective for treating thrush; men and women in sexual relationships should be treated simultaneously to prevent reinfection.

2) Diabetes. Men who have diabetes often have dry, papery-looking skin; they are also more prone to yeast infections than healthy men. As a result, men who have chronically dry skin or who develop frequent yeast infections should bring these issues to the attention of their doctor, particularly if they meet the other risk markers for diabetes, such as being overweight or obese.

3) Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some STIs may also present with dry, itchy skin. Men who are sexually active should be tested regularly - every six months to one year - to be sure that they are free and clear. They should also talk to their partners about any existing conditions before engaging in sexual activity and use protection for every encounter.

4) Dehydration. Dry skin may also occur simply because a man is not getting enough fluids. Dehydration can be a serious problem, as it impairs the ability of all the cells of the body to carry out their normal functions. Men should monitor their fluid intake, and increase their fluids on hot or especially dry days or when they are physically active.

What to do about dry, flaky skin

The first and most obvious step to take in combatting dry skin anywhere on the body is to increase fluid intake. Men should be drinking at least eight 8-oz. glasses of water per day in order to ensure that all of their organ systems, including the skin, can function properly and protect the body against disease.

However, the skin can easily lose moisture even when fluid intake is sufficient due to issues such as sweating, dry rubbing and hot or cold weather. Even the hot water of a morning or evening shower - not to mention the soap or cleanser used to wash the skin - can dry out the skin and leave it feeling tight, itchy and uncomfortable.

To eliminate these problems effectively, men should wear clothing that is breathable, yet supportive. A personal lubricant should be used for masturbation and partner sex, and a mild cleanser, rather than a soap, should be used for washing. Warm, rather than hot, water is recommended for cleaning the penile skin.

After a shower or bath, a moisturizer should be applied to the skin of the penis while it is still warm and slightly damp. A top-quality penis health crème (health professionals recommend Man1 Man Oil) containing natural emollients such as vitamin E can lock in moisture and reduce the chances that the skin will become parched and dry during a man’s daily activities. Using a cream like this on a daily basis can leave the penis feeling smooth and supple - a pleasure for both the man and his partner.