June 19, 2020

Why Does My Penis Hurt?

Different causes for why your dick hurts will require different treatments. That’s why it’s important to recognize the symptoms.
Written by
Louise Bourchier, MPH
Published on
June 19, 2020
Updated on
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When your penis hurts, it can be uncomfortable and worrying. It can also make you want to avoid masturbation or sex. Perhaps just one part of your penis hurts — like the head or the urethra — or maybe it only hurts when you pee or get an erection. It could be straight-up pain, or it could just feel itchy or irritated. However you might be experiencing discomfort, it’s best to know the causes and to get it taken care of as soon as you can. Read on to learn some common reasons your penis might hurt and how to treat it. 

Causes of penis pain

There are a number of reasons why your dick might hurt. Some causes might be very easy to take of or may go away on their own while others may require a diagnosis and prescription from a healthcare provider. Different causes require different treatments, so knowing your symptoms and getting the right diagnosis is important. 

Sensitivity to your shower products, lube, or condoms

A cause of penis pain can simply be an allergy or skin reaction to shower products, lubricant, or condoms you’re using. Even your laundry detergent might be causing your penis to hurt or itch.

Treatment for skin sensitivity

Try switching up your products. Get a body wash for sensitive skin, or just use plain water on your genitals. As for lube, the same applies: try a different brand or try switching to a silicone lubricant. Most condoms are made of latex which can be allergenic, so check the packets and find some that are latex-free. You can generally find latex-free condoms at a regular pharmacy.

Sexually transmissible infection

There are a number of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) that can cause pain. For example, herpes can cause painful blisters on the skin, and gonorrhea can cause the urethra to hurt (there might also be pus), some STIs can lead to pain in the testicles, too.

Treatments for STIs

STIs need to be diagnosed by a healthcare provider. There are a number of different options for getting STI testing: You can see your regular family doctor, visit a sexual health clinic, or if you go to school, you might have a testing clinic there.

When your STI has been diagnosed correctly, your healthcare provider will let you know how to treat it and will probably prescribe medication, like antibiotics, for you to take. Make sure you take it according to their instructions so your infection goes away completely.

Other infections

Not all infections are from sexual transmission. Sometimes, you can get painful symptoms that look like an STI, but are caused by something else. For example, you might have a yeast infection that causes irritation. A yeast infection may or not be from sex. 

Treatments for other infections

As with STIs it’s really important to get the correct diagnosis so you can get the right treatment, and that means seeing a healthcare provider. Places that test for STIs can also diagnose other kinds of infections, so, as above, head to your family doctor, sexual health clinic or wherever else you can get care.

Urinary tract infection (UTI)

Does it feel like you’re peeing broken glass? This burning sharp kind of pain can be a sign of a UTI. It can also be a sign of some STIs, so be sure to get tested. Here are some common symptoms for a UTI:

  • Frequently needing to pee or having sudden urges to empty your bladder
  • Burning sensation when you pee
  • Blood in your pee 
  • Pain in your lower abdomen 

Note that if you’re experiencing fever, chills, nausea, fatigue, or pain in your pelvis or perineum, it could mean you have prostatitis, which is a prostate infection.  

Treatment for UTIs

To treat a UTI, you’ll need antibiotics or other medication from a healthcare provider. It’s also important to stay hydrated with plenty of fluids. Some people say drinking cranberry juice can help get rid of bacteria in the bladder, though there is no definitive evidence to support that. 

Skin chafing from friction during sex or masturbation

Sometimes pain can be caused from friction burn on the skin of your penis, which may feel like a rug burn. You may also see grazed areas or even places where the skin is cracked. This can be caused by vigorous or lengthy sexual activity (whether solo or with a partner) without enough lubrication. With masturbation, it may also be that your grip on your penis is a little too tight. 

Treatment for friction burn

Unless the grazes get infected, friction burn is not serious. Just be gentle with your dick for a few days until it heals. To prevent friction burn in the future, invest in a good lubricant that will not only feel great, but also keep your skin healthy and happy while you’re getting busy.

Build up under the foreskin (smegma)

Smegma — sometimes known as “dick cheese”— is a white-ish substance that can build up under the foreskin if it’s not cleaned properly, or if the foreskin is too tight to be able to clean under it. (See phimosis below). A small amount of smegma is unlikely to be painful, but if it builds up, it can cause irritation and pain. It can also smell unpleasant.

Treatment for smegma 

For most people who have a foreskin, it’s easy to avoid smegma building up by making sure you pull the skin back and wash under it each time you shower. You don’t even need to use soap, just wash the area with your hand. If you can’t pull your foreskin back, or if it’s painful to do so, you might have phimosis.

Overly tight foreskin (phimosis)

Phimosis is a condition where a person’s foreskin is too tight. It can cause pain in several ways:

  • When smegma builds up and can’t be cleaned, causing smegma 
  • When the tight pressure of the foreskin is painful on the penis head
  • When the foreskin gets painfully stretched during sex or masturbation. This can make the frenulum, where the foreskin attaches to the underside of your penis, bleed as well. 

Treatment for phimosis

For children, the condition can get better over time. If you’re an adult, however, it’s unlikely the condition will get better by itself. If you experience frequent, ongoing, or bad pain, see a healthcare provider. You might need to undergo a simple surgery to fix the condition.

Inflamed penis head (balanitis)

When it comes to your penis hurting, balanitis can be a symptom and cause at the same time. Balantis happens when the head of your penis hurts, becomes swollen and maybe itchy. It can be due to an infection, but is often not serious and treatments are simple. Kids under 4 years old, or people with uncircumcised penis also experiencing phimosis are most likely to experience balanitis. 

Treatment for balanitis

With balanitis it really depends what the underlying cause is, so go through all the options above, and try and see a healthcare provider, especially if it’s quite painful or is getting worse. A doctor may simply prescribe a topical medication. 

An erection that won’t go away (priapism)

Having a persistent erection might sound fun, or even funny, at first, but it can be really painful and also dangerous. If your erection is painful and has lasted for four hours and won’t go down, it’s probably time to see a doctor. Priapism can be caused by taking certain medications or can be a sign of an underlying health condition.

Treatment for Priapism

It is important to get the correct diagnosis from your healthcare provider so you can get the right treatment. Treatment might involve injecting medication into the penis, using a syringe to draw excess blood out of the penis, or applying ice packs.

Peyronie’s disease

Peyronie’s disease is a rare condition where scar tissue builds up inside the penis. It causes the penis to bend, it can be painful, and can also cause erectile dysfunction.

Treatment for Peyronie’s disease

A mild case might go away on its own, but sometimes medications or other therapies might be necessary. Your doctor will be able to discuss options with you, or refer you to a specialist, if it doesn’t get better on its own over time. 

Penile fracture

There are no bones in your boner, but you can break your dick. Penile fracture is rare but serious. If your penis gets bent during sex or masturbation, you will hear a cracking sound and experience severe pain. Go straight to the emergency room. FYI: the “cowgirl” sex position is the most likely to cause a penis fracture.

Treatment for penile fracture 

If this happens to you you need to get to the hospital for treatment - you might need surgery. And the quicker you get it fixed the better, waiting longer can lead to erection problems in the future.

Why does the tip of my penis hurt?

If your urethra, or just the tip of your penis, is hurting you might have an STI, a UTI, or another type of infection. Check out the advice above for the best ways to treat each of these problems, and see a healthcare provider if the issue persists. If the pain is mild and goes away by itself in a day of two, it may just be irritation from the fabric of your clothing rubbing on the tip of your sensitive glans, which is the penis head.

If the whole head of your cock hurts, it’s possible you’ve got a case of balanitis, smegma buildup, or possibly phimosis (if you’re uncircumcised).

Why does my penis hurt when I pee? 

Pain when you pee is a sign of an infection, either a UTI or an STI like gonorrhea. It’s best to get treated as quickly as possible to avoid further complications, like a kidney infection if it’s a UTI. Avoid passing the infection on to anyone else if it’s an STI by abstaining from sexual activity until the issue is treated and goes away. Your healthcare provider will prescribe you antibiotics. Make sure you take the complete course, and drink plenty of water to help flush out the bugs.

The bottom line

There are quite a few potential causes of penis pain. If the pain is severe or doesn’t resolve itself quickly you should see a healthcare provider. You might feel embarrassed seeing a doctor or nurse about it, but you should not have to put up with pain, and delaying treatment can make things worse. So, be brave and get to a clinic asap, your dick is worth it!

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

Louise Bourchier is a sex educator and sex researcher with 8 years experience in the field. She teaches about sexual health, sexual pleasure, and communication in relationships through workshops, live-streams, and with written content. Using a sex-positive approach, a dash of humour, and bag full of fun props, Louise’s style of sex education for adults is not what you got in high school! Since 2011 she has taught over a hundred workshops to a wide range of audiences, from university students, to refugees, to medical professionals, to adult store clientele. She has a Masters of Public Health, and is currently a PhD candidate.

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