Signs and symptoms of penis problems
There are signs and symptoms to look for that mean there’s a problem with your penis and should be checked. These include:
- problems getting or keeping your penis erect
- yellow or green discharge from the tip of your penis
- pain when you pee
- bleeding when you pee
- a sore, itchy and smelly penis
- painful, itchy rash on your penis
- blisters, warts or small, red bumps on your penis
- painless sore on the shaft of your penis
- pain when your penis is erect
- swelling of the tip of your penis
- pain when you have sex
Some problems can be caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Many people with STIs do not get symptoms, so it's worth getting tested even if you feel fine.
If you think you have an STI, the earlier you're tested, the sooner treatment can be given if it's needed, (see ‘where to find help and support’ section below).
When to get medical advice
You should see your GP or make an appointment at a sexual health clinic if you have problems with your penis that you are concerned about or you think you may have an STI.
Conditions that can affect the penis
This information may help give you an idea about what the issue might be. Don't use it to diagnose yourself with a condition. Always leave that to a health professional.
There are many conditions that can cause problems with your penis. These include:
Balanitis is a skin irritation on the head of the penis that can affect men and boys. It's not usually serious, but you should see your GP if you think you or your son has balanitis.
Bowen's disease is a very early form of skin cancer that's easily treatable. The main sign is a red, scaly patch on the skin. See your GP if you have a persistent red, scaly patch of skin and don't know the cause.
Ejaculation problems are common sexual problems in men. If you have a problem with ejaculation, see your GP who will discuss the problem with you. They may examine you or refer you to a specialist.
Erectile dysfunction (impotence)
Erection problems (impotence) are very common. It becomes more common as men get older, particularly in men over 40. It can be a distressing symptom, but can resolve itself. You should see your GP if it keeps happening.
Genital warts are small fleshy growths, bumps or skin changes that can appear on the penis or around the genital or anal area. Genital warts are a common type of sexually transmitted infection (STI). If you think you have genital warts, it is recommended you make an appointment at your local genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic.
Lichen planus is a non-infectious rash that can affect different parts of your body, including the inside of your mouth. On the penis it can appear as ring-shaped purple or white patches. You should see your GP if you think you might have it. Read about the symptoms of Lichen planus.
Lichen sclerosus is a long-term skin condition that mainly affects the skin of the genitals. In men and boys, lichen sclerosus tends to develop on the foreskin and end of the penis.
The skin around the anus is rarely affected. Symptoms can include sore or sometimes itchy white patches on the penis or there can be problems pulling the foreskin back. You should see your GP if you think you might have it.
Penile cancer is a rare type of cancer that occurs on the skin of the penis or within the penis. See your GP as soon as possible if you have symptoms of penile cancer. It's unlikely they'll be caused by penile cancer, but they need to be investigated.
Priapism (painful erections)
Priapism is a long-lasting, painful erection. It can cause permanent damage to your penis if not treated quickly. Call 999 or go to your nearest emergency department if you have an erection that lasts more than 2 hours.
Thrush in men
Thrush is a common yeast infection that affects men and women. Thrush is caused by a group of yeasts called Candida. It’s usually harmless but it can be uncomfortable and keep coming back.
Symptoms can include irritation, burning or itching under the foreskin or on the tip of the penis with redness. There may be a discharge under the foreskin that may look like cottage cheese – there may also be an unpleasant smell.
Tight foreskin (phimosis and paraphimosis)
Phimosis is where the foreskin is too tight to be pulled back over the head of the penis (glans). Phimosis is normal in babies and toddlers. It isn't usually a problem unless it causes redness, soreness, swelling or difficulty urinating (peeing). Take your child to your GP if they have these symptoms.
Genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
If you are worried about having a sexually transmitted infection, you can get tested at a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic.
There are genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics across Northern Ireland. Find contact details of your nearest clinic
In the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust area, some GP practices provide sexual health care services. If you are in this trust area, you can also check with your GP if they provide this service.
Have safer sex
Always use condoms to help protect yourself from catching or passing on an STI. Buy condoms that have the CE mark or BSI kite mark on the packet.
This means they have been tested to high safety standards. Condoms that do not have the CE mark or BSI kite mark will not meet these standards, so do not use them.