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- Sports or recreational activities, such as mountain biking, soccer, or baseball.
- Work-related tasks, such as exposure to irritating chemicals.
- Sexual activity.
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.
- An epidermal cyst. A cyst that is filled with a soft, yellow substance called keratin may develop beneath the outer layer of the skin in the scrotum.
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, such as genital herpes or, in rare cases, Fournier's gangrene.
- The head of the penis. The infection may occur under the foreskin. This is called balanitis.
You may notice blood in the semen. Infection or inflammation is the most common cause of blood in the semen.
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.
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
The medical assessment of symptoms is based on the body parts you have.
- If you are transgender or nonbinary, choose the sex that matches the body parts (such as ovaries, testes, prostate, breasts, penis, or vagina) you now have in the area where you are having symptoms.
- If your symptoms aren’t related to those organs, you can choose the gender you identify with.
- If you have some organs of both sexes, you may need to go through this triage tool twice (once as "male" and once as "female"). This will make sure that the tool asks the right questions for you.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
- Your age. Babies and older adults tend to get sicker quicker.
- Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care sooner.
- Medicines you take. Certain medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements can cause symptoms or make them worse.
- Recent health events, such as surgery or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them more serious.
- Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug use, sexual history, and travel.
Try Home Treatment
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
- Try home treatment to relieve the symptoms.
- Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect). You may need care sooner.
Symptoms of infection may include:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in or around the area.
- Red streaks leading from the area.
- Pus draining from the area.
- A fever.
Pain in adults and older children
- Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain is so bad that you can't stand it for more than a few hours, can't sleep, and can't do anything else except focus on the pain.
- Moderate pain (5 to 7): The pain is bad enough to disrupt your normal activities and your sleep, but you can tolerate it for hours or days. Moderate can also mean pain that comes and goes even if it's severe when it's there.
- Mild pain (1 to 4): You notice the pain, but it is not bad enough to disrupt your sleep or activities.
Urinary symptoms may include:
- Pain when you urinate.
- Trouble urinating.
- Not being able to urinate at all.
- Blood in your urine.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
- Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS.
- Long-term alcohol and drug problems.
- Steroid medicines, which may be used to treat a variety of conditions.
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.
- Other medicines used to treat autoimmune disease.
- Medicines taken after organ transplant.
- Not having a spleen.
Seek Care Now
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
- Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
- If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care in the next hour.
- You do not need to call an ambulance unless:
- You cannot travel safely either by driving yourself or by having someone else drive you.
- You are in an area where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.
Make an Appointment
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
- Make an appointment to see your doctor in the next 1 to 2 weeks.
- If appropriate, try home treatment while you are waiting for the appointment.
- If symptoms get worse or you have any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.
Seek Care Today
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
- Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
- If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care today.
- If it is evening, watch the symptoms and seek care in the morning.
- If the symptoms get worse, seek care sooner.
Call 911 Now
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
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.
- 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, 3 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.
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.
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
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 symptoms, such as burning with urination, blood in urine, or frequent urination, develop.
- A rash gets worse or has not improved.
- Symptoms become more severe or frequent.
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.
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.
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.
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).
A male condom is placed over a man's erect penis before sex. Condoms are also called "rubbers," "sheaths," or "skins."
The female condom is a tube of soft plastic (polyurethane) that has a closed end. Each end has a ring or rim. The ring at the closed end is inserted deep into the woman's vagina over the cervix, like a diaphragm, to hold the tube in place. The ring at the open end remains outside the opening of the vagina.
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?
Current as of: June 26, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine