Health Encyclopedia > Symptom Checker

Male Genital Problems and Injuries

Topic Overview

Male genital problems and injuries can occur fairly easily since the scrotum and penis are not protected by bones. Genital problems and injuries most commonly occur during:

  • Sports or recreational activities, such as mountain biking, soccer, or baseball.
  • Work-related tasks, such as exposure to irritating chemicals.
  • Falls.
  • 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.
  • A sebaceous cyst. A cyst that is filled with a cheeselike, greasy material may develop beneath the outer layer of the skin in the scrotum.

Infections

Infections can occur in any area of the genitals, including:

Rashes

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.

Male genital problems may be related to whether or not the penis is circumcised. For more information, see the topic Circumcision.

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

Do you have a problem in the genital area?
This includes problems with the penis or scrotum.
Yes
Problem in the genital area
No
Problem in the genital area
How old are you?
Less than 12 years
Less than 12 years
12 years or older
12 years or older
Are you male or female?
Male
Male
Female
Female
Do you have problems with urination?
Yes
Problems with urination
No
Problems with urination
Have you injured your scrotum or penis?
Yes
Injury to scrotum or penis
No
Injury to scrotum or penis
Is there a deep cut or has any part of the penis or scrotum been cut off?
Yes
Deep cut or amputation
No
Deep cut or amputation
Have you had trouble getting an erection since the injury?
Yes
Impotence after injury
No
Impotence after injury
Do you have pain in the groin area?
This includes the penis and scrotum.
Yes
Pain in groin area
No
Pain in groin area
How bad is the pain on a scale of 0 to 10, if 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine?
8 to 10: Severe pain
Severe pain
5 to 7: Moderate pain
Moderate pain
1 to 4: Mild pain
Mild pain
Has the pain:
Gotten worse?
Pain is getting worse
Stayed about the same (not better or worse)?
Pain is unchanged
Gotten better?
Pain is getting better
Do you have any urinary symptoms?
Yes
Urinary symptoms
No
Urinary symptoms
Are you able to urinate at all?
Yes
Able to urinate
No
Unable to urinate
Do you have pain on one side of your back, just below your rib cage?
This is called flank pain. It sometimes is a symptom of a problem with the kidneys.
Yes
Flank pain
No
Flank pain
Do you think you may have a fever?
Yes
Possible fever
No
Possible fever
Are there any symptoms of infection?
Yes
Symptoms of infection
No
Symptoms of infection
Are there red streaks leading away from the area or pus draining from it?
Yes
Red streaks or pus
No
Red streaks or pus
Do you have diabetes, a weakened immune system, peripheral arterial disease, or any surgical hardware in the area?
"Hardware" includes things like artificial joints, plates or screws, catheters, and medicine pumps.
Yes
Diabetes, immune problems, peripheral arterial disease, or surgical hardware in affected area
No
Diabetes, immune problems, peripheral arterial disease, or surgical hardware in affected area
Is there any new discharge coming from the opening of the penis?
This could be pus, blood, or a clear discharge.
Yes
Discharge from penis
No
Discharge from penis
Do you think that the genital problem may have been caused by abuse?
Yes
Genital problem may have been caused by abuse
No
Genital problem may have been caused by abuse
Is there an object around or in the penis or scrotum?
Yes
Foreign object around or in penis or scrotum
No
Foreign object around or in penis or scrotum
Do you have an erection that has lasted more than 3 hours and will not go away?
Yes
Erection lasting more than 3 hours
No
Erection lasting more than 3 hours
Is there a problem with the foreskin of the penis?
Yes
Problem with foreskin
No
Problem with foreskin
Is the foreskin pulled back, swollen, or blocking the flow of urine?
Yes
Foreskin is pulled back, swollen, or blocking flow of urine
No
Foreskin is pulled back, swollen, or blocking flow of urine
Can you return the foreskin to its normal position?
Yes
Able to return foreskin to normal position
No
Unable to return foreskin to normal position
Are you having new trouble pulling back the foreskin?
Yes
New problem retracting foreskin
No
New problem retracting foreskin
Do you think you may have been exposed to an STI (sexually transmitted infection)?
This means that you had sexual contact (including oral sex) with someone that you know or think has an STI.
Yes
Exposure to STI
No
Exposure to STI
Is there a rash in the groin area?
This could include a rash, blisters, or an open sore in the groin area.
Yes
Rash in groin area
No
Rash in groin area
Does the rash hurt?
Yes
Painful rash
No
Painful rash
Is the rash very itchy?
Yes
Very itchy rash
No
Very itchy rash
Are there blisters on the penis?
Yes
Blisters on penis
No
Blisters on penis
Do you have an open sore?
Yes
Open sore
No
Open sore
Is there a lump, a bulge, or any swelling or other changes in your testicle, scrotum, or groin area?
Yes
Lump, bulge, swelling or other change in testicle, scrotum, or groin area
No
Lump, bulge, swelling or other change in testicle, scrotum, or groin area
Is the lump, bulge, or swelling new or changing?
Yes
Lump, bulge, or swelling is new or changing
No
Lump, bulge, or swelling is new or changing
Have you had problems in the genital area for more than 2 weeks?
Yes
Genital problems for more than 2 weeks
No
Genital problems for more than 2 weeks

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.

Call 911 Now

Based on your answers, you need emergency care.

Call 911 or other emergency services now.

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.

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.

Urinary symptoms may include:

  • Pain when you urinate.
  • Trouble urinating.
  • Not being able to urinate at all.
  • Blood in your urine.
Urinary Problems and Injuries, Age 11 and Younger

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.

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.

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.

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 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.
Urinary Problems and Injuries, Age 12 and Older

Home Treatment

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.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
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.

Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

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.

Prevention

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.

Testicular self-exam

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.

Male teens, young men, and men who have had undescended testicles or a family history of testicular cancer have an increased risk for developing testicular cancer.

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

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?

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD
Last Revised August 15, 2013

Last Revised: August 15, 2013

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