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What is a Penis Ulcer?

By Synthia L. Rose
Updated: May 17, 2024

A penis ulcer is an open sore on the scrotum, shaft, or glans of the penis. Occasionally, an ulcer can also occur on the urethra. They can be a singular occurrence or a rash of several ulcers at once. The sores are typically accompanied by redness, itching, and inflammation. The presence of a penis ulcer can result in burning or pain during urination.

The cause of a penis ulcer is often bacteria or viruses linked to sexually transmitted diseases, such as chancroid, syphilis, mononucleosis, or herpes. Those with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may notice the HIV exacerbates other viruses in the body, such as herpes. When this happens, constant ulcers may result for long periods of times.

The presence of ulcers doesn’t always indicate venereal disease. Antibiotics and mouth bites from oral sex can also create penile ulcers; for the latter cause, bacteria in the mouth, such as Eikenella corrodens, are generally the culprit. One rare cause of ulcers on the penis is tuberculosis. Also, certain tumors, like the keratoacanthoma tumor, can grow on the penis and eventually ulcerate. A few studies report that heroin abuse can lead to ulcers on the penis.

Cancer of the penis is occasionally the cause of penile ulcers. Such ulcers may be accompanied by malignant lumps or a toughening of the skin, particularly on the foreskin and head of the penis. With a cancer-related penis ulcer, lumps in the lymph nodes of the groin usually form.

Some men with penile ulcers may notice accompanying lethargy and feebleness. Low white blood cells may also be present with some ulcers. Lesions are frequently a precursor to ulcers; the abnormal tissue of the lesion eventually breaks open into a penis ulcer with accompanying pus and sometimes blood.

An ulcer can be self-healing, but most require treatment with antibiotics, corticosteroids, or antihistamines. Procaine penicillin and arsenic are occasional treatment options. Treatment is not always permanent, as some ulcers can become latent and then recur years later.

In preparing for a medical office visit to seek treatment for a penis ulcer, many patients find it helpful to collect data such as descriptions of the shape, color, and size of the ulcer, how soon the ulcer appeared, and whether the sores were accompanied by chills or fever. Usually, questions about sexual behavior and past partners are asked by the physician. If a doctor is not able to determine the cause and plan treatment of a penis ulcer by inspection, blood tests or biopsies can be conducted, along with standard tests for venereal diseases.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Flash24 — On Jul 25, 2015

Gents! Here's what I hope will relieve and put a lot of worried dudes out there at ease. I'm 24 years old and fairly sexually active. A few months ago after having sex with my partner I formed a tear on my frenulum. Two or three days later this formed into an ulcer. Numerous other ulcers then formed adjacent to it then they spread completely around my foreskin. Nine in total!

I then did some research and found almost no one with multiple ulcers came back negative for herpes type 2. You can imagine how worried I was! I then visited a doctor.

After him inspecting them and taking a swab sample he said and I quote, "it looks like herpes". So at this point I thought, all right, I'm screwed. Had to tell my girlfriend (she didn't care) and brace myself for a life with it. A week passes and after clearing the ulcers up with a course of anti viral drugs and being near certain I had HSV 2, my results come back.

It was clear. I tested negative for all STDs and Herpes Type 2. However, I came back positive for HSV , but I don't get cold sores?

Confused? I was too. The doctor then asked me if I or my partner get mouth ulcers, which we do! So to cut to the chase, I formed multiple ulcers around my foreskin, mimicking HSV 2 from my girlfriend giving me oral sex with a mouth ulcer. True story.

By SeanH — On Jun 29, 2015

Penile ulcers can be quite serious, and most certainly require a visit to the doctor. For other issues down there such as dry skin, itchiness or irritation, a penis health creme usually does the trick. A good creme will be loaded with vitamins and nutrients which will moisturize and soothe the skin, leaving it soft and smooth. These cremes are awesome fellas. Check 'em out.

By anon990273 — On Apr 13, 2015

I get penis ulcers when I tear my skin down there, but the doctor said it's not herpes, so are they right?

By anon358105 — On Dec 09, 2013

I have a penis ulcer and I put ointment on it to prevent infection, but the ulcer went down and I'm 17. What should I do next?

By hvbfihrtrb — On Oct 23, 2013

I am 22 years old and I had swelling on the foreskin of my penis for which my doctor prescribed cetrizine, doxycycline hyclate tablets and Lobate gm ointment (I had no idea that it contains steroids).

After five or six days, the swelling or inflammation was gone, but now I guess there is an ulcer or sore on the tip of my penis (not the foreskin).

Now my doctor has prescribed Cifran 500 and Doxycycline.

Is it balantis or something related to syphilis? What should i do now ? I have applied a little Lobate ointment thinking it will stop the pain. Should I stop using that? Please help me.

By anon351099 — On Oct 10, 2013

I have like yellow-dots on my penis and also there is like a reddish ulcer and feels hard and lumpy. What is it? I'm really scared and I'm a teen.

By anon324014 — On Mar 07, 2013

I got kicked in my penis at school and feel as if it was bleeding, when i reached home i rushed into the bathroom immediately and saw a bruise on my penis head - it can't even get erect. Please help.

By anon311054 — On Dec 29, 2012

I have a small ulcer looking thing on my penis. I was given oral sex by a woman three weeks ago. It doesn't match the pics I've seen of herpes, but could that be it? Should I see a doctor?

By anon306454 — On Nov 29, 2012

I have a pimple on my penis. I had unprotected sex with a complete stranger as I was drunk and I'm very worried. I have been having some fever and yesterday I noticed a pimple on my penis with some breaks in my skin on my penis region and I'm afraid it might be herpes. What do I do?

By anon266308 — On May 05, 2012

I have been married 32 years and I got an ulcer on my penis. I have small dots showing some dangerous sign of disease. I have consulted a skin specialist doctor and all my reports have been normal. He prescribed me an ointment and some tablets. The ulcer disappears after I take the medicine. But when I have intercourse with my wife, the very next day they are back. What should I do?

By anon259844 — On Apr 08, 2012

My penis head just started peeling. It looks like it's going to fall off. What can I do? It's quite disgusting and bleeds. I don't want to get it checked out. What if this could kill me?

By anon257002 — On Mar 24, 2012

I have a little pimple like bump on my penis, I have not had sex. What could this be?

By anon250317 — On Feb 25, 2012

I had cooked chicken grease/oil on my hands from eating some cooked chicken and I was going to the toilet and put my hands on my penis and now my penis has a plastic like skin on it. The skin is very hard to peel off. I'm starting to freak out.

By anon246928 — On Feb 12, 2012

I had pain in my penis for the last three days, and thought it could be due to some wrong exercise or muscular strain.

I got it checked with the doctor today and found that I have an ulcer. He gave me some antibiotics/cream and did a random blood sugar. My blood sugar level is normal, however it was to check for any signs of diabetes.

If the ulcer does not go away in one week, the doctor has to check my wife as well for these symptoms.

Anyway, I'm already feeling very good after meeting the doc. I took an injection. Please see a doctor.

By poppyseed — On May 07, 2011

I’m afraid that I may have a penis ulcer, but I’m really terrified to have it checked into. I almost don’t want to know if that’s actually what it is or not.

How long can a sexually transmitted disease lie dormant before something like this comes to the surface?

My wife and I had some problems in the past, but now I’m on the straight and narrow. What if I inadvertently have given her something because I didn’t know I had it, and will she believe that I’ve been faithful for years now?

I know that sounds cowardly, but I don’t want to lose my family.

By dimpley — On May 04, 2011

@BioNerd – I’m with you, bud. For some reason we tend to shy away from getting help when it involves the penis, but it really is crucial not to ignore this kind of problem. A penile ulcer, if nothing else, is incredibly painful and a big kick in the ego. Go to the doc, get it figured out and get back on the right track with some ulcer antibiotics.

By BioNerd — On Feb 04, 2011

It is vital that you see a doctor if you suspect that you may have testicular or urethral cancer. Most men are slow to do this, or feel like they can tough it out. Don't think that. Being vulnerable is necessary to being treated.

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