Ladies, you’ve all been there: out with a man who keeps giving his crotch a quick surreptitious scratch. An itchy penis is at least an occasional issue for all men, and a chronic one for some. Even men whose attention to penis health is exceptional may still have the inevitable itchy penis on occasion. What women need to know is whether the itchiness is of the everyday variety or whether it suggests a bigger problem - especially if that problem is one that could be passed on to his partner.

Itchy penis happens

As mentioned above, an itchy penis is something all men experience at times. In most cases, it’s a momentary issue, just like an itch anywhere else on the body. In other cases, it may be due to a totally benign cause. For example, sometimes the pubic hair is brushing against the penis, causing the need to scratch. In other instances, it may be a slight allergic reaction. Often detergents used in laundering clothes or soap used in showering may contain a harsh ingredient that creates an itchy situation.

It may also be due to a still benign but not necessarily pleasant cause, such as improper hygiene. If a man has not bathed sufficiently, the itch may be related to that problem. Some men get balanitis, an inflammation of the glans of the penis; if the cause of the balanitis is non-contagious, then it will likewise not be contagious to the partner.

In some instances, a man with a latex allergy will develop an itchy penis due to use of latex condoms.

But there are numerous other factors that can lead to an itchy penis, and these may potentially impact anyone who shares his bed with him. These include:

- Jock itch. Yes, this most famous of male itches is a common problem. A fungal infection, jock itch is considered a low-to-moderate risk when it comes to passing through sexual contact, but it can happen.

- Yeast infection. Women are not the only ones to suffer from a genital-based yeast infection, although it is much rarer in men than in women. Typically called "thrush" when it occurs in men, women are particularly susceptible to acquiring this.

- Crabs and scabies. Parasitic mites, often caused by unhygienic conditions or by exposure to an affected partner, can create a serious itchy situation. Both of these are very contagious and can be a pain to eradicate.

- Herpes. About one of every six adults in the U.S. has genital herpes, one symptom of which is itchiness in the affected area. Herpes cannot be cured, so those who contract it from a partner will need to take steps to manage and control it whenever it "breaks out."

- Major STIs. Many serious sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), like gonorrhea or chlamydia, often list itchiness as one of their key symptoms. There are usually - but not always - other visible tell-tale signs, such as an unpleasant urinal discharge or lesions in the area. Avoiding STIs is important, so if a woman suspects a man may have one, she should avoid having sex until after he has been cleared via appropriate testing.

Most cases of penile itching are harmless. However, women may want to encourage their partners to take steps to alleviate that itchy penis. One thing that helps is regularly using a superior penis health crème (health professionals recommend Man1 Man Oil, which is clinically proven mild and safe for skin). Often an itchy penis is due to dry skin, so moisturizing via a crème with both a high-end emollient (such as Shea butter) and a natural hydrator (such as vitamin E) can be a step in the right direction. It also helps if the crème includes vitamin B5, which aids in maintaining healthy tissue and giving penis skin a nice appearance.