Penile Infection

What is a Penile Infection?

Men’s Clinic in Singapore (Caring & Treating Since 2005)

Penis infections frequently occur on the skin or in the urethra

The penis is a complex organ comprising of skin, connective tissue, erectile tissue, nerves, blood vessels and of course the urethra which is the tube that runs through the middle of the penis and transmits urine and semen.

The skin on the penis comprises the skin on the shaft, the foreskin and the glans (head of the penis). Penis infections frequently occur on the skin or in the urethra.

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The skin on the shaft of the penis is similar to keratinised skin found elsewhere on the body. Infections that can affect other parts of the body like impetigo (an infection with a bacteria called Staphylococcus Aureus), hair follicle infections and oil gland infections can also affect the skin on the shaft of the penis.

Foreskin Infection

The foreskin is usually more susceptible to infections as urine often gets trapped under the foreskin and it is an environment that bacteria and fungus can grow easily in. This is an even bigger problem in people with diabetes, as the urine can contain sugar which makes it an even better environment for bacteria and fungus to grow in.

In fact, many people may only find out that they have diabetes when they suffer from a foreskin infection. Also, certain medicines which are used to treat diabetes (SGLT2 inhibitors) – that promote the passing of sugar out in the urine – can also greatly increase the risk of a foreskin infection.

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STD & non-STD Infection

Infections can also occur within the urethra of the penis. These infections are frequently sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Various STDs like GonorrheaChlamydia and even herpes can cause infection within the urethra. In such cases, the most common symptom is pain passing urine.

See all other STDs & STD Symptoms

Infection of the penis can be caused by bacterial, fungal, and sometimes viral organisms. These may sometimes be transmissible infections (e.g. STI’s/STD’s), but some may also be due to poor hygiene or underlying conditions such as diabetes.

What are the Symptoms of Penile Infection?

Some symptoms of penile infection can include:

  • Rashes, ulcers or sores over the head or shaft of the penis
  • Pain or itching at the genitals
  • Swelling over skin
  • Pain while urinating
  • Blood in urine or Blood in semen
  • Pelvic pain or discomfort
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Urinary frequency
  • Abnormal penile discharge
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One of the most common penile infections results in balanitis, or inflammation of the head of the penis. This can be triggered off by sexual activity, poor hygiene after exercising or may indicate a weakened immune system such as in poorly controlled diabetes.

Men may see red or white spots or rashes over the head of the penis, with itching and increased sensitivity or discomfort. Balanitis can be caused by fungal or bacterial infections, which may need treatment with topical creams or sometimes even oral tablets.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1) What will happen when I see the doctor?

We will start with a consultation for your symptoms to assess the severity of the problem as well as determine if there is an underlying cause.

This discussion will include questions on your past medical history, potential sexual exposures, and other risk factors for infection.

The doctor will perform a physical examination as appropriate – this may be to check for any tenderness or swelling in the genital area, enlarged lymph nodes, prostate enlargement, or skin changes like ulcers or rashes.

We will then advise you on the appropriate testing, which may include swabs or a urine sample, and blood testing if we are concerned about other associated infections or diseases.

2) I seem to get this problem frequently – what should I do?

See the doctor – there can be many reasons that you are getting these infections, including commonly missed diagnoses like diabetes.

We have picked up many patients with newly-diagnosed diabetes after they presented with recurrent balanitis. It is best to treat these early as chronic balanitis can lead to scarring, adhesions, and possibly phimosis (tightening of the foreskin making a retraction of the foreskin difficult or painful).

If you are getting recurrent urinary tract infections (UTI’s), we would need to evaluate for sexually transmitted infections which are commonly missed on regular urine testing at GP’s, and if these tests are clear we would assess for any other underlying problems with the urinary system, such as kidney stones, urinary reflux, and prostate enlargement.

3) Would I need a circumcision?

Circumcision is rarely needed to treat a penis infection. In certain situations like diabetes, or situations causing recurrent bacterial or fungal infections of his foreskin (recurrent balanitis), individuals may benefit from a circumcision.

4) Are these conditions curable?

Yes, most penile infections are readily treatable with either antifungal or antibiotic therapy. Depending on the type of infection, medication may either be topical creams or oral tablets, ranging from a single dose to a few weeks in complicated cases.

In STI cases, it would also be recommended that your partner gets tested and treated as well. In non-STI case, we would hope to address the underlying condition or risk factor – for instance, if you are found to have diabetes or kidney stones, these will need to be treated as well to reduce the risk of recurrent infection.

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