Is Genital Psoriasis Life-Threatening? Treatment & Prevention

Medically Reviewed on 6/8/2022
Is Genital Psoriasis Life-Threatening
Genital psoriasis is not an STD, but it can cause significant discomfort and embarrassment

Genital psoriasis is neither life-threatening nor contagious. However, it can be uncomfortable and more difficult to treat than other types of psoriasis.

Due to feelings of shame or embarrassment, many people with genital psoriasis avoid seeking medical treatment. In addition, the disease can also interfere with your sex life and have a signficant impact on your intimate relationships.

Fortunately, there are several FDA-approved treatments for genital psoriasis, and more than 70% of people who receive treatment experience significant improvement in symptoms.

How serious is genital psoriasis?

Although genital psoriasis can negatively impact quality of life, it is important to understand that the condition does not pose health risks to sexual partners. It is not an STD but instead an autoimmune disease.

Proper diagnosis and treatment can lower the risk of long-term complications. Boosting awareness of the disease can help shed light on this stigmatized autoimmune disorder, allowing for more accurate diagnosis and targeted therapies.

What are common symptoms of genital psoriasis?

Genital psoriasis is an immunological condition in which skin cells are produced at a faster rate than normal. Psoriasis can appear anywhere on the body. When it affects the genital area, symptoms may include:

  • Bright red, smooth, and shiny patches of skin
  • Gray, narrow areas in the vagina or just outside the vagina (in women)
  • Small red patches on the shaft or tip of the penis (in men)
  • Rashes that may appear well-defined, shiny, smooth, dry, and without scales
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Severe itching and stinging
  • Worsened symptoms when you sweat or if the area becomes irritated from rubbing

Many people with genital psoriasis go undiagnosed for years in absence of typical symptoms.

What are risk factors for genital psoriasis?

Although the exact cause is unknown, genital psoriasis can be triggered by a variety of genetic and environmental factors. Risk factors include:

  • Family history of psoriasis
  • History of psoriasis at a young age
  • Infections

Typically, if you have genital psoriasis, you have the more common psoriasis on the knees and elbows. However, for some people, it may just manifest in genital area. 

People with genital psoriasis may be undertreated or suffering unnecessarily because physicians commonly fail to inquire about or evaluate these areas.

How is genital psoriasis treated?

Because the skin in genital area is thin and sensitive, genital psoriasis can be difficult to treat. However, with topical treatments, symptoms can be relieved in about 48-72 hours.

Treatment options for genital psoriasis include:

  • Steroids: Topical steroids in the form of creams and ointments
  • Steroid-free topicals: Immune modulators to reduce inflammation or topical vitamin to reduce proliferation
  • Antibiotics and antifungals: Used to prevent bacteria, fungi, and yeast from growing in skin folds
  • Systemic therapies: Biologics to inhibiting critical proteins in the inflammatory process, cyclosporine or methotrexate to target the hyperactive immune system

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, psoriasis therapies that should be avoided or used with extreme caution near the genitals include:

  • Phototherapy, which can increase the risk of genital cancer
  • Strong coal tar-based products


Psoriasis causes the top layer of skin cells to become inflamed and grow too quickly and flake off. See Answer

What can you do to prevent genital psoriasis flare-ups?

In addition to following your treatment plan, you can prevent genital psoriasis flare-ups with the following measures:

  • Avoid psoriasis triggers such as stress, injuries, infections.
  • Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.
  • Regular moisturize the area where flare-ups are common.
  • Use fragrance-free and alcohol-free products to prevent irritation.
  • Wear loose-fitting undergarments and clothes.

What are tips for having sex with genital psoriasis?

If you have genital psoriasis, you do not have to let it put a damper on your sex life. The condition cannot be transmitted sexually unless there is a secondary bacterial infection.

However, if your skin is irritated and raw, you should avoid sexual activity. You should also take the following measures:

  • Before sex, clean the area with a mild cleanser
  • During sex, use lubrication to reduce friction
  • After sex, carefully wash the area to reduce irritation
Medically Reviewed on 6/8/2022
Image Source: iStock image


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