Male Genital Problems and Injuries

Topic Overview

Male genital problems and injuries can occur fairly easily since the scrotum and penis are not protected by bones. Genital problems and injuries most commonly occur during:

  • Sports or recreational activities, such as mountain biking, soccer, or baseball.
  • Work-related tasks, such as exposure to irritating chemicals.
  • Falls.

A genital injury often causes severe pain that usually goes away quickly without causing permanent damage. Home treatment is usually all that is needed for minor problems or injuries. Pain, swelling, bruising, or rashes that are present with other symptoms may be a cause for concern.

Male genital conditions

  • Testicular cancer. This is the most common cancer in men 15 to 35 years old. Testicular cancer is more common in white men than in black men. Many growths in the scrotum or testicles are not cancer (benign). But a painless lump in a testicle may be a sign of cancer.
  • An erection problem. This may occur when blood vessels that supply the penis are injured. A man may not be able to have an erection (erectile dysfunction), or the erection may not go away naturally (priapism), which is a medical emergency.
  • Torsion of a testicle. This occurs when a testicle twists on the spermatic cord and cuts off the blood supply to the testicle. This is a medical emergency.
  • Scrotal problems. These problems may include a painless buildup of fluid around one or both testicles (hydrocele) or an enlarged vein (varicose vein) in the scrotum (varicocele). Usually these are minor problems but may need to be evaluated by your doctor.
  • Problems with the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis. Conditions that make it hard to pull the foreskin back from the head of the penis (phimosis) or that prevent a tightened, retracted foreskin from returning to its normal position over the head of the penis (paraphimosis) need to be evaluated.
  • Hypospadias. This is a common birth defect where the urethra does not extend to the tip of the penis.
  • Undescended testicles (cryptorchidism). This occurs when one or both testicles have not moved down into the scrotum.
  • An inguinal hernia. A hernia occurs when a small portion of the bowel bulges out through the inguinal canal into the groin.
  • A kidney stone. A stone forms from minerals in urine that crystallize and harden. Kidney stones are usually painless while they remain in the kidney, but they can cause severe pain as they break loose and travel through narrow tubes to exit the body.
  • A sebaceous cyst. A cyst that is filled with a cheeselike, greasy material may develop beneath the outer layer of the skin in the scrotum.

Infections

Infections can occur in any area of the genitals, including:

  • A testicle (orchitis).
  • The epididymis (epididymitis).
  • The urethra (urethritis).
  • The prostate (prostatitis).
  • The bladder (cystitis).
  • A simple hair follicle (abscess) or deeper abscess in the scrotum that may involve the testicles, epididymis, or urethra.
  • The genital area (Fournier's gangrene).
  • The head of the penis. The infection may occur under the foreskin. This is called balanitis.

Rashes

Rashes in the groin area have many causes, such as ringworm or yeast. Most rashes can be treated at home.

A rash may be the first symptom of a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If you may have been exposed to an STI, do not have sexual contact or activity until you have been evaluated by your doctor. This will reduce the risk of spreading a possible infection to your sex partner. Your sex partner may also need to be evaluated and treated.

Male genital problems may be related to whether the penis is circumcised or not. For more information, see the topic Circumcision.

Little boys may play with toys or other objects near their penis and accidentally cause an injury. Anything wrapped around the penis or an object in the penis needs immediate evaluation to avoid problems.

If you use a urinary catheter to drain your bladder, your doctor will give you instructions on when to call to report problems. Be sure to follow the instructions your doctor gave you.

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

Check Your Symptoms

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Home Treatment

Home treatment measures can help relieve pain, swelling, and bruising and promote healing after a genital injury. These home treatment measures also may be helpful for noninjury problems. But if you think you may have a more severe injury, use first aid measures while you arrange for an evaluation by your doctor.

Home treatment for a minor injury

  • Rest. Rest and protect an injured or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.
  • Ice. Cold will reduce pain and swelling. Apply an ice or cold pack immediately to reduce swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, three or more times a day. A bag of frozen peas or corn may work as a cold pack. Protect your skin from frostbite by placing a cloth between the ice and the skin. After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply warmth to the area.
  • Support. While recovering from a genital injury, wear jockey shorts, not boxers, to help support the injured area. You can use a jock strap if it helps relieve your pain.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:

Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.

Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

Home treatment measures may also be helpful for:

  • Yeast infections that cause a fiery red rash with a scalloped border and sharply outlined edges in skin folds.
  • Jock itch, which is a fungus (ringworm) infection of the skin that may cause a rash and blisters.
  • Minor cuts or skin wounds with mild bleeding.
  • A lump on the scrotal skin, such as a sebaceous cyst.
  • Minor rashes that are red and itchy. These may be caused by contact with a substance (contact dermatitis), such as poison ivy, that causes an allergic reaction.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Signs of an infection develop, such as swelling, redness, fever, or pus.
  • Urinary problems develop.
  • Swelling develops in the scrotum or lymph nodes in the groin.
  • A rash gets worse or has not improved.
  • Symptoms become more severe or frequent.

Prevention

The following prevention measures may help you reduce your risk of problems in the genital area. If you find a lump, growth, or other change in the genital area, check your symptoms to determine if and when you need to see your doctor.

Testicular self-exam

You may want to do a testicular self-exam once a month. The best time to do the exam is after a warm bath or shower when the scrotal skin is relaxed.

Male teens, young men, and men who have had undescended testicles or a family history of testicular cancer have an increased risk for developing testicular cancer.

If you are concerned about an undescended testicle in your baby, talk to your baby's doctor.

Prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

You can take measures to reduce your risk of becoming infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI). You can also reduce the risk of transmitting an STI to your sex partner. Know high-risk behaviors and the symptoms of STIs.

Delay sexual activity until you are prepared both physically and emotionally to have sex. Nearly two-thirds of all STIs occur in people younger than 25 years old. Sexually active teenagers are at high risk for STIs because they frequently have unprotected sex and have multiple partners. Biological changes during the teen years also may increase the risk of getting an STI.

Practice safer sex

Preventing a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is easier than treating an infection once it occurs.

  • Talk with your partner about STIs before beginning a sexual relationship. Find out if he or she is at risk for an STI. Remember that it is quite possible to be infected with an STI without knowing it. Some STIs, such as HIV, can take up to 6 months before they can be detected in the blood. Ask about the following:
    • How many sex partners has your new potential partner had?
    • What high-risk behaviors does he or she have?
    • Has he or she ever had an STI?
    • Was it treated and cured?
    • If the STI is not curable, what is the best way to protect yourself?
  • Be responsible and practice safer sex.
    • Avoid sexual contact or activity if you have symptoms of an STI or are being treated for an STI.
    • Avoid sexual contact or activity with anyone who has symptoms of an STI or who may have been exposed to an STI.
  • Abstain from sexual intercourse to prevent any exposure to STIs.
  • Don't have more than one sex partner at a time. Your risk of an STI increases if you have several sex partners at the same time.

Condom use

Condoms can be used not only to prevent pregnancy but also to help protect against sexually transmitted infections. Use a condom during vaginal, oral, or anal sex with a new partner until you are certain that he or she does not have any sexually transmitted infections, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

In a long-term, single-partner (monogamous) relationship, partners may choose to quit using condoms to prevent STIs. But using some form of birth control is important to prevent an unintended pregnancy.

Jock itch and yeast infection

Steps to prevent jock itch (fungal infection of the skin in the groin) or yeast infection (cutaneous candidiasis) include the following:

  • Dry yourself well after bathing. Use a hair dryer to dry your groin area.
  • Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes. Avoid tight pants.
  • Use a powder to absorb moisture.
  • If you have athlete's foot, put your socks on before your underwear. This can prevent fungi from spreading from your feet to your groin when you put on your underwear.
  • Change out of a wet bathing suit soon after swimming so that your skin can dry out.

Preparing For Your Appointment

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions.

Before your appointment

  • If you have a genital rash, do not have sexual contact or activity while waiting for your appointment. This will reduce the risk of transmitting a possible infection to your partner. If you do have an STI, your sex partner or partners need to be evaluated and treated also.

Questions to prepare for your doctor appointment

  • What are your main symptoms? How long have you had your symptoms?
  • Have you had this problem before? If so, do you know what caused the problem at that time? How was it treated?
  • What activities make your symptoms better or worse? What sports do you participate in?
  • How and when did an injury occur? How was it treated?
  • Have you had any injuries in the past to the same area? Do you have any continuing problems because of the previous injury?
  • Have you had infections or rashes in the genital area in the past?
  • Do you engage in high-risk sexual behaviors? Do you think you have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?
  • Does your sex partner have any genital symptoms or problems?
  • Have you had any genital surgeries or procedures?
  • Do you perform testicular self-examination? How often?
  • What home treatment measures have you tried? Did they help?
  • What prescription and nonprescription medicines have you taken? Did they help?
  • Do you have any health risks?

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD
Last Revised March 1, 2011

Last Revised: March 1, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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