Why Do I Have Red Dots on My Penis?

When red spots appear on the penis, one’s mind may jump to sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, not all red spots on the glans are STIs.

Proper hygiene, including regular cleaning of the genital area, can prevent many types of red dots on the penis. Also, men who sweat excessively should wear cotton underwear to keep the genitals clean and dry.

Causes

Seeing spots or bumps on your penis can be very concerning, especially as the genital area tends to be sensitive and private. While the first thing that may come to mind is sexually transmitted infections (STIs), most causes are far less serious.

One of the most common reasons for red spots on your penis is due to improper hygiene. Failure to properly cleanse the genitals can promote bacterial growth and lead to red spots, particularly if you workout or play sports frequently and sweat heavily. Men who produce excess sweat should wash their genitals twice daily with mild soap and warm water.

Red spots on the glans can also be caused by fungal infections, including a yeast infection, which is characterized by itching and irritation. A doctor will prescribe antifungal medication to treat the infection.

Another common cause of red spots on the glans is a skin condition known as molloscum contagiosum, a viral infection that typically affects children but can occur in adults as well. This disease is typically spread through skin-to-skin contact and through fomites, such as shared towels and clothes. It is often spread by rubbing or scratching an infected area, which is why it’s important to use barrier protection during sex and not share towels, clothing or other items.

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If your red spots are accompanied by pain, itching or swelling, see a doctor right away. You could have a more serious cause, such as syphilis or genital warts. These conditions require treatment to prevent long-term complications and to help keep you safe from spreading the infection to others.

Symptoms

There are a variety of conditions that can lead to red spots on the penis and other areas of the preputial skin. Some are sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, many red spots on the penis and preputial skin are not related to an STI. They may be caused by poor hygiene, an allergic reaction to soap or fabric, an injury to the area, or even inflammation of the tissue.

Bumps that appear on the glans of the penis are usually hair follicles that become inflamed. This condition is called folliculitis. It is not contagious and does not need treatment. Dome-shaped, red or blue spots on the head, or glans, of the penis and in other areas of the genitals are known as angiokeratomas. These are benign tumors that do not need treatment.

Herpes simplex virus, another viral STD, causes bumps or blisters that can progress to painful skin ulcers. These sores are generally not painful when first occurring on the penis. Genital warts and Bowenoid papulosis are also herpes-related. These warts are usually accompanied by pain, itching and burning.

Syphilis — a bacterial infection — can cause painless, circular, red sores on the penis and genital area, called chancres. It’s important to seek medical attention right away for syphilis because it can quickly advance and lead to severe health problems.

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Treatment

Although STIs may be the first thing that comes to mind when a man has red dots on his penis, not every rash that appears on this sensitive part of the body is sexually transmitted. According to a urologist at NYU Langone, some causes of this condition are more benign than others. Some rashes are flat and smooth, while others can be itchy or painful.

In most cases, a person can treat these rashes at home. Gently washing the genitals with mild soap and warm water on a daily basis can help reduce the risk of infection. Men who are uncircumcised should take special care to clean the area under their foreskin on a regular basis. Wearing loose, cotton underwear that wicks away moisture can also help.

Dome-like bumps that appear on the penis and other parts of the body can be a sign of molloscum contagiosum, a common childhood disease that spreads through skin-to-skin contact and through fomites like towels or clothes. These rash-like bumps can be itchy, but scratching them can worsen the condition and cause the spots to turn a brighter red color and become sore and tender.

If the rash on the penis is accompanied by pain, swelling or a fever, a doctor should be consulted immediately. Often, these symptoms are signs of a more serious problem like a bacterial or viral infection that requires prompt treatment.

Prevention

Penile skin can get irritated and red from many different things, including infection and allergies. Practicing good hygiene by washing the genital area frequently and using unscented soap and lotion can help prevent infection. Avoiding scented products and wearing loose, breathable clothing that allows air to circulate can also help prevent irritation and rash. Practising safe sex by always using condoms can reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

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Other ways to prevent a rash on the head of the penis includes using an over-the-counter itching cream or antihistamine such as Benadryl, and avoiding scented soaps or lotions that can cause a reaction in the genital area. Wearing loose, breathable cotton clothes will help keep the penis and foreskin cool and dry, which can also prevent irritation.

If the rash on the head of the penis is due to a bacterial or fungal infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics or medicated ointments. Infections that are not treated with medications may worsen and can lead to permanent scarring or a condition called phimosis.

A rash on the head of the penis can also be a sign of an STD such as chlamydia or syphilis. Typically, red spots that develop as a result of poor hygiene or irritation will disappear within a day or two, while those caused by an STI tend to last longer and are often accompanied by other symptoms.

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