Itchy penile skin can occur for many different reasons. Sensitivities to fabrics or personal care products, sweating, sub-par hygiene and even cold weather can all contribute to itching and discomfort below the belt. In most cases, some minor adjustments to a man’s personal care routine can resolve the issue quickly, but certain conditions can cause penile itching that is so severe it affects his overall quality of life. Men who are affected by serious, chronic itching may have a condition known as lichen planus. Understanding the penis care measures needed to treat this problem can make a big difference.

What is lichen planus? This condition is characterized by an itchy rash; the rash usually consists of raised, purple bumps with flat tops. The bumps can range in size from a pinpoint to a centimeter in diameter. In most cases, a whitish streak can be seen on the surface of the bumps.

Lichen planus most often affects the mouth, genitals and nails, although it can also be found on other parts of the body. When the glans of the penis is affected, small, white bumps may develop. Lichen planus can be moderately to severely itchy, to the point that affected individuals may be unable to sleep, and their day-to-day ability to function normally may be impaired.

The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but it is an autoimmune disorder. It is not contagious, and it usually clears up on its own after 6-12 months, although some patients may experience symptoms for up to two years. As the rash heals, it may leave small, brown spots behind; these can take months or even years to fade away.

Who gets it? Both men and women have an equal chance of being affected; it generally appears in individuals over the age of 45. Those who have other inflammatory issues such as vitilogo, ulcerative colitis, alopecia areata or lichen sclerosis may be more likely to develop lichen planus.

How is it diagnosed? Because the rash is distinctive, doctors are often able to diagnose it through visual inspection of the affected skin. If needed, a skin biopsy can be performed; a small sample of the affected skin will be removed under local anesthetic and observed under a microscope for characteristic changes in the skin cells.

What can be done to treat it? At present, there is no cure for lichen planus; therefore, treatment is geared toward relieving the symptoms. There are several measures that can be taken to ease the itch and minimize the rash:

1) Oral antihistamines. These medications may be used to reduce the itching at night so that affected individuals are not kept awake by the need to rub or scratch.

2) Topical cortisone creams. Applying a cortisone cream is generally an effective way to manage the itch, and it may help to minimize the accompanying rash. Many doctors will recommend this course of treatment.

3) Oral cortisone treatment. Oral medications may be used to control the most severe itching. However, due to the considerable side effects, this treatment is usually only recommended for a few weeks at a time, and the symptoms may recur once the medication is discontinued.

4) Light therapy. A specialized light treatment may be used in cases of extreme and extensive lichen planus.

5) Use of an emollient. A rich moisturizer can soothe itchy skin and reduce the discomfort while healing is underway. A targeted penis health crème (health professionals recommend Man1 Man Oil) may be a good choice for men who have the characteristic lichen planus rash on the penile skin. A quality male-specific product that does not contain chemical additives like fragrances can provide hydration without side effects that may actually contribute to itching and dryness. Men should look for a cream that contains vitamin E, which is gentle on the skin and locks in moisture for optimum itch relief.