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Male Genital Problems and Injuries
Male genital problems and injuries can occur fairly easily. That's because the scrotum and penis aren't protected by bones. These problems and injuries most often occur during:
- Sports or recreational activities, such as mountain biking, soccer, or baseball.
- Work-related tasks, such as being exposed to irritating chemicals.
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 most common from ages 15 to 35 years. It's more common in white people than in black people. Many growths in the scrotum or testicles aren't 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. You may not be able to have an erection (erectile dysfunction). Or the erection may not go away on its own (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. It's 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 they may need to be checked 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 checked by your doctor.
- In this common problem at birth, 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 are in the kidney. But they can cause severe pain as they break loose and travel through narrow tubes to exit the body.
- A skin cyst.
- A cyst that is filled with a soft, yellow substance called keratin may form beneath the outer layer of the skin in the scrotum.
Infections can occur in any area of the genitals, such as:
- A testicle (orchitis).
- The epididymis (epididymitis).
- The urethra (urethritis).
- The prostate (prostatitis).
- The bladder (cystitis).
- A simple hair follicle or a deeper abscess in the scrotum that may involve the testicles, epididymis, or urethra.
- The genital area. An example is 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 your semen. This is most often caused by infection or inflammation.
Other problems that may occur in the groin area
Rashes in the groin area have many causes, such as ringworm or yeast (cutaneous candidiasis). 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've been checked 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 checked and treated.
Children may play with toys or other objects near their penis and accidentally cause an injury. Anything wrapped around the penis or any object in the penis needs to be checked right away 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
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, such as blood thinners (anticoagulants), medicines that suppress the immune system like steroids or chemotherapy, herbal remedies, or 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 can help relieve pain, swelling, and bruising and promote healing after a genital injury. But if you think you may have a more severe injury, use first aid while you arrange to be checked by your doctor.
Home treatment for a minor injury
Rest and protect an injured or sore area.
Cold will reduce pain and swelling. Apply an ice or cold pack right away 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, you can apply warmth to the area.
While recovering from a genital injury, wear snug underwear or compression shorts to help support the injured area. You can use an athletic supporter if it helps relieve your pain.
Other groin area problems
Rashes and injuries may also occur in the groin area.
- Rashes, such as those that occur with yeast infections or jock itch, are often treated with creams or ointments.
- Cuts are rinsed and cleaned. If a cut is large or painful, you may need to see a doctor.
When to call for help during self-care
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
- New or worse signs of infection, such as redness, warmth, pus, or a fever.
- A painful lump or swelling.
- New or worse rash.
- New or worse urinary problems, such as burning with urination or blood in urine.
- Symptoms occur more often or are more severe.
Preparing For Your Appointment
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine