It’s not talked about much, but both penis psoriasis and vaginal psoriasis are almost as common as any other type of psoriasis.
Psoriasis on and around the genitals is more commonplace than most would like to admit, with penis psoriasis being more common than vaginal psoriasis.
Genital psoriasis can appear spontaneously like any other type of psoriasis. It usually appears as red shiny skin without the usual silver scaling and it may feel tight and sore especially at the edges where it meets normal skin. Genital psoriasis is usually also quite itchy. If it appears in the public hair it can cause ‘dandruff’ like flakes in the pubic hair.
Penis psoriasis usually appears as many small, red patches on the tip of the penis or the penis shaft. The skin is usually smooth and shiny and sometimes also scaly.
Vaginal psoriasis is smooth, not scaly and usually causes vivid red patches of skin that may itch.
Most people who get genital psoriasis also have patches of psoriasis elsewhere on their body, scalp or nails. However in rare cases psoriasis can only appear on the genitals.
Penis psoriasis can appear on the penis and the scrotum and on women it appears on the vulva. In both sexes psoriasis can also appear in the pubic hair, on the skin between the genitals and the anus, around the anus and between the buttock cheeks.
There are some trigger factors that may raise the risk of genital psoriasis in both sexes, they include;
- Tight clothes that rub or chafe the skin
- Tampons & Sanitary towels
- Abrasive or scented toilet paper
- Genital thrush
- Chaffing or tears from sexual intercourse
Sex & Genital Psoriasis[quote]Psoriasis of the genitals is not infectious but is often mistaken for other sexually transmitted diseases or infections.[/quote]
You can continue to have sex with genital psoriasis, although chaffing or abrasions may make the condition worse. Lubricants help although they can also make the condition worse if the skin reacts to the lubricant.
However studies have found that erectile dysfunction can accompany penis psoriasis due to the inflammatory effect of the condition causing cardiovascular complications that reduce the ability to maintain an erection.
Studies also show that erectile dysfunction and female sexual dysfunction is common in people with genital psoriasis due to psychological factors. [quote]Women with vaginal psoriasis, studies show, suffer more negative psychological sexual issues than men with penis psoriasis.[/quote] In both sexes psychotherapy can be highly effective for overcoming sexual dysfunction.
Treatment for penis psoriasis and vaginal psoriasis
The genital area is very sensitive so normal treatments for psoriasis are not appropriate;
- Protopic and Elidel are two topical immunosuppressive drugs that can work well for penis psoriasis. These drugs suppress the activity of the T-cells, which positively effects psoriasis. There is less risk of skin thinning with these treatments than with steroid creams.
- Mild steroids, such as 1% Hydrocortisone creams, can be used on the genital area but with great caution. They are generally discouraged due to the fact that the skin on the genitals is so thin. They should be used only when completely necessary and for as short a period of time as possible.
- Dovonex cream can be used on the genitals, but once again with caution and only for limited periods of time.
- [quote]Non-steroid anti-plaque creams are particularly effective on the genital area as the skin is thin and often warm and moist making the active ingredients more effective than elsewhere on the body. Due to the fact that the steroids sources are plant based, these treatments can be used on a permanent and regular basis and so can help keep flare ups to a minimum or even prevent them altogether. They should be applied once or twice daily (preferably after washing) onto clean dry skin and also after sexual intercourse.[/quote]
- Coal tar treatments, namely creams or soaps, work for some people with genital psoriasis. Coal tar does have an unpleasant smell, but it can be easily washed off. Coal tar medicines may also further irritate the genital skin as they are quite harsh and should only be used on a temporary basis.
- Sun is very beneficial for psoriasis and the genital area rarely gets much sun, so exposing the genital area to UV light for limited periods of time can be very beneficial but be very careful not to burn the skin.
- [quote]Specific anti-plaque body washes are also very beneficial for genital psoriasis as the genital area is regularly washed but normal soaps and body washes can aggravate the problem as they tend to contain harsh foaming agents and perfumes.[/quote]
- Using condoms (as long as they do not make the psoriasis worse) may be helpful for males with penis psoriasis and women can use lubricating jelly to reduce further aggravation of their vaginal psoriasis.