Pus-filled, angry, red, and wince-inducing whenever they’re touched, blisters on the penis are a pain unlike many things. Often piercing and long-lasting, the discomfort can be intense. However, some penis blisters don’t hurt at all and lay in wait to become something a bit more insidious. While there are plenty of perfectly innocent reasons for blisters on the penis, like friction and folliculitis, there are also some more serious causes that need immediate special attention. Any man who believes he may have blisters on the penis from one of the below causes should see a medical practitioner ASAP.

The Dark Side of Blisters on the Penis: Serious Causes

Not to be a Negative Nellie, but penis blisters can be the result of some pretty serious stuff. These are a few of the most serious causes of blisters on the penis:

1) Herpes. The herpes simplex virus (HSV) is one of the most common causes of penis blisters, and blisters in the pelvic region overall. These blisters can be found anywhere in the nether region including the groin, pubic area, buttocks, and upper thighs. They can also occur in the mouth as well.

Herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and is spread through sexual contact with an infected person. Herpes can cause watery blisters which eventually burst then crust over, resulting in itching and redness. There is no cure for Herpes. Immediate care includes antiviral medications, washing the area with warm water and a gentle cleanser, and wearing loose clothes. Be sure to ask the diagnosing doctor for information on living with Herpes to preserve overall health and reduce the risk of transmitting it to current or future intimate partners.

2) Chancroid. Even the name sounds like a Star Wars villain. Another STI, chancroid appears as tiny, squishy, grayish blisters on the penis, scrotum, or other areas in the reproductive region. These blisters can pop or ooze, cause itchiness and swelling, and are painful to the touch. Treatment includes antibiotics and surgery to drain abscesses of pus.

3) Syphilis. Caused by bacteria, syphilis is another common sexually transmitted infection. According to the CDC, over 100 thousand people were diagnosed with syphilis in 2017. Symptoms include fever, skin rash, swollen lymph glands, and hair loss. The good news? It can be treated if caught in early stages. The bad news? If left to progress or it goes untreated, it can lead to loss of eyesight, loss of cognition, and even loss of life.

4) Warts. Rounding out the STI group, warts can appear blisteresque and often look “cauliflowery.” It is one of the most common STI’s out there, especially among young people. Men will need to use a cream to get rid of them. Larger clusters, however, may need to be frozen off by a skilled doctor.

5) Penile Cancer. It’s the big C. Penile cancer may start as a blister on the foreskin, head, or shaft of the penis. It may then morph into a wart-like growth that discharges blood or a particularly foul-smelling ooze. Treatment includes surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Keep Blister off the Penis with These Tips

First, a note about sex. Notice that the first four of five serious cause of blisters on the penis were STIs? Before engaging in intimate contact with new partners, have a frank discussion about sex, including your sexual health. Be sure to use condoms and dental dams wherever necessary.

Second, have a solid hygiene ritual and during that ritual take a moment to inspect the goods. Wash daily with a mild cleanser and warm water. Pat dry and then moisturize the area with a specially formulated penis health creme (health professionals recommend Man 1 Man Oil, which has been clinically proven safe and mild for skin). Crèmes such as these not only soothe the skin but also keep the area clean and bacteria free. Crèmes like this also keep the delicate penile skin in optimal condition making inspection easy so a man does mistake acne for a blister!