Penis pain involves any pain or discomfort, internal or external, of the penis. If you’re experiencing aches and pains in the penis, whether during sexual intercourse or at other times, you should schedule a trip to your doctor or a urologist if symptoms persist or are severe.
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Chief among the causes of penis pain is Peyronie’s disease, an abnormal curvature of the penis usually caused by scar tissue in the tunica albuginea — the strength layer of the penis — says urologist Ryan Berglund, MD.
Peyronie’s can interfere with intercourse either by making it painful or by leading to erectile dysfunction, Dr. Berglund says. Some men report hearing a pop or snap in the penis shortly before an erection, he says.
About one in 20 men develop Peyronie’s at some point in their lives. The exact cause of Peyronie’s disease is unknown.
The disease becomes severe enough to inhibit intercourse in only 1% to 2% of men. Physicians typically intervene only in those cases.
Surgery is a possible treatment in some cases. Doctors also sometimes use a penile prosthetic to treat the condition. Incision of plaque from the penis is another type of treatment, he says.
While Peyronie’s gets somewhat more likely to occur with age, men in any stage of life may develop the condition, Dr. Berglund says.
“I’ve seen plenty of young men who have it,” he says.
A somewhat rarer source of pain in the penis are penile fractures. A penis fracture can occur when there is trauma to the erect penis. The trauma may rupture the lining of one of the two cylinders in the penis responsible for erections.
Men who experience this report hearing a popping sound, then experiencing severe pain, swelling and dark bruising of the penis, Dr. Berglund says.
Penile fractures are medical emergencies. The concern is that they can lead to permanent erectile dysfunction if not treated immediately.
“You need to go in and quickly have those sewn up,” he says. “But fractures are fairly rare.”
Skin disorders such as lichen sclerosus sometimes cause penis pain. This condition looks like small white bumps that are shiny and smooth. Later, the spots grow into bigger patches. The skin on the patches becomes thin and crinkled. Then the skin tears easily, and bright red or purple bruises are common. Sometimes, the skin becomes scarred. If the disease is a mild case, there may be no symptoms.
Lichen sclerosus is an “inflammatory scarring response that can lead to difficulty in urination and anatomic problems with the penis,” Dr. Berglund says. The likelihood of developing lichen sclerosus grows significantly higher with age.
Uncircumcised men sometimes develop a painful condition called phimosis. This means the foreskin cannot be fully retracted. This condition sometimes requires corrective surgery, he says. Older men are considerably more likely to develop phimosis, as well.
Uncircumcised men are more likely to develop hard lesions on the penis. This condition is rare in the United States, but more common worldwide. Improved hygiene usually clears up this problem. However, a doctor should evaluate the condition to rule out penile cancer, Dr. Berglund says.