What Triggers Genital Psoriasis? Causes & Risk Factors

Medically Reviewed on 6/8/2022
What Triggers Genital Psoriasis
Genital psoriasis is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition in which skin cells proliferate at a faster rate than usual and can affect skin anywhere on the body, including the genitals.

Although the exact cause is unknown, genital psoriasis is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Triggers of genital psoriasis may include:

Many people who suffer from genital psoriasis can go for years without it being an issue. Symptom onset can be sudden or flare up due to certain triggers. For example, scratching or rubbing can cause cracking and bleeding, leading to infections that can make you more likely to develop the condition.

What are risk factors for genital psoriasis?

According to a study published by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, there are a few primary risk factors that can trigger genital psoriasis:

If you have genital psoriasis, you may also have psoriasis on the knees and elbows. However, for some people, the disease may just manifest in the genital area.

What are symptoms of genital psoriasis?

Genital psoriasis is often misdiagnosed as a sexually transmitted illness, an allergic response, or a yeast infection. Genital psoriasis is not contagious.

Common symptoms of genital psoriasis include:

  • Smooth, dry, red lesions
  • Intense itching
  • Burning and stinging
  • Pain and discomfort with sweating, rubbing, or sex
  • Silvery scales in cases where plaques affect the outer parts of the genitals
  • Infection in cases where affected skin is cracked and bleeding

What are different types of genital psoriasis?

There are two main types of genital psoriasis:

  • Inverse psoriasis: Appears as smooth, red patches in the skin folds between the upper thigh and the genitals, often aggravated by friction
  • Plaque psoriasis: Characterized by red spots and silvery or white scales that may break and bleed, mostly found on the pubic area or upper thighs


Types of Psoriasis: Medical Pictures and Treatments See Slideshow

What areas can be affected by genital psoriasis?

Psoriasis of either sort can arise on the vulva, penis, scrotum, or crease between the buttocks. Affected areas may include:

  • Vulva: Patches are usually red and smooth and are only on the external part of the vagina.
  • Penis: Usually occurs on the glans (head) but can affect the body of the penis.
  • Anus: Patches appear near the anus, causing intense itchiness
  • Pubis: Affects the area above the genitalia; symptoms are similar to scalp psoriasis.
  • Thighs: Patches usually appear in the groin area, near the genitalia.

Psoriasis on the vulva may appear as silvery spots or gray or red plaques. Small red spots on the tip of the penis or shaft are most common in men. 

  • Lesions of genital psoriasis are usually symmetrically scattered throughout the skin of the labia and sometimes, surrounding the anus in the vaginal region.
  • Lesions may appear on the pubic area, vulva or penis but rarely on the interior of the vagina.
  • Psoriasis of the vulva is often characterized by a smooth, non-scaly redness.
  • Psoriasis of the penis can manifest as a series of tiny, red spots on the glans or shaft. The skin may be rough and scaly or smooth and shiny. Both circumcised and uncircumcised men can be affected by genital psoriasis.

Is genital psoriasis curable?

Although there is no known cure for genital psoriasis, it can be treated with medications, topical treatments, and lifestyle changes. Obtaining a formal diagnosis and working with a dermatologist are critical initial measures. 

Genital psoriasis can cause significant physical and physiological discomfort. Many people with the condition suffer from embarrassment, low self-esteem, and problems with sexual intimacy, and many do not seek medical treatment due to a sense of shame or shyness about this sensitive area.

Although genital psoriasis is not contagious, it can significantly impair quality of life more than other types of psoriasis. However, it is important to address the problem and receive timely therapy in order to lower the risk of long-term complications.


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

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Medically Reviewed on 6/8/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Rath L. Genital Psoriasis: An In-Depth Guide. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/psoriasis/genital-psoriasis-guide#

American Academy of Dermatology. How Can I Treat Genital Psoriasis? https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/psoriasis/treatment/genitals/genital-treat

National Psoriasis Foundation/USA. Genital Psoriasis. https://www.psoriasis.org/genitals/

Beck KM, Yang EJ, Sanchez IM, Liao W. Treatment of Genital Psoriasis: A Systematic Review. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2018;8(4):509-525. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6261118/

Czuczwar P, Stepniak A, Goren A, Wrona W, Paszkowski T, Pawlaczyk M, Piekarska-Myslinska D, Wozniak S, Pietrzak A. Genital psoriasis: a hidden multidisciplinary problem - a review of literature. Ginekol Pol. 2016;87(10):717-721. https://journals.viamedica.pl/ginekologia_polska/article/view/GP.2016.0074/40615