Symptoms to look out for downstairs
Reviewed by our clinical team
Noticed any new symptoms affecting your penis or testicles, like swelling or a rash? There’s a good chance it’s something that can be treated without causing any long-lasting complications – however this does mean you should get medical advice.
Read on for our guide to what your symptoms might mean, and when you should visit your GP.
Swollen and sore penis
One fairly common condition experienced by men is pain and swelling on the head of the penis. It might also be red and itchy, produce an unpleasant smell or bleed.
The cause of these symptoms is usually balanitis – inflammation of the head of the penis. This condition can be caused by not washing your penis properly, having a very tight foreskin or an STI.
If the head of your penis is swollen and sore, you should visit your GP for advice. They might want to prescribe a mild steroid cream or an antifungal cream, or give you some antibiotics.
They might also advise you to be more careful about keeping your penis clean, and tell you to:
- Wash your penis every day
- Wash under your foreskin
- Make sure your skin is gently and thoroughly dried after bathing (1)
Learn more here: What is balanitis?
A curved penis
It’s normal for an erect penis to curve slightly to the left or right. However, if your penis has a very distinct bend to it that causes pain during sex, this can be a sign of Peyronie’s disease.
Peyronie’s is a condition that usually affects men over 40, although it can occur at any age. Symptoms include:
- A thick area or hard lump on one side of your penis
- A curve in the penis (usually upwards) when you have an erection
- Pain in your penis when you have an erection
- An unusual hourglass shape to your penis
- A change to the length or girth of your penis
Because of these symptoms you might struggle to have sex, or even find it impossible. You might also experience some erectile dysfunction (ED).
If you are struggling with your symptoms you should see your GP or go to a sexual health clinic, as there are treatment options available.
Learn more here: What is Peyronie’s disease?
Red spots or a rash on the penis
There are several things that can cause redness, a red rash or red spots on the penis. As we’ve discussed above, balanitis can cause the head of the penis to become red, swollen and sore.
Other conditions that can cause redness include STIs like:
- Syphilis, which can cause a small, painless ulcer to develop on the penis
- Genital herpes, which can cause blisters on the penis that burst leaving red, open sores
If you notice these kinds of symptoms, you should go to a sexual health clinic as soon as possible to get checked and treated.
Lumps on the penis
There are lots of different things that can cause lumps on the penis, and most are harmless – although they can be a bit uncomfortable:
- Small flesh-coloured lumps that go around the head of the penis could be pearly penile papules. These are normal and don’t need any treatment.
- A hard swelling on the side of your penis after you’ve had sex or masturbated could be a lymphocele. This is a type of temporary blockage that should go away on its own without causing any problems.
- Painless, fleshy growths or bumps on the shaft or head of the penis could be genital warts. This is a type of STI caused by the human papillomavirus. You can have treatment to get genital warts removed, but they may recur.
- A hard lump on the side of the penis that causes a curve in it when you have an erection could be Peyronie’s, which we discuss above under the section “A curved penis”.
If you think your symptoms might point to an STI like genital warts, it’s best to go to a sexual health clinic. Otherwise, you can check in with your GP about your symptoms.
Discharge from the penis
If you notice discharge from your penis (i.e. a substance that isn’t urine or semen) you probably have an infection that requires treatment with antibiotics.
There are several STIs that can cause discharge from the penis including:
- Chlamydia, which normally causes white, cloudy and watery discharge, as well as pain when urinating and pain in the testicles.
- Gonorrhoea, which normally causes white, yellow or green discharge, as well as pain when urinating and a swollen foreskin.
- Trichomoniasis, which normally causes thin, white discharge, as well as pain when urinating, needing to urinate more often, and a swollen foreskin.
If you’re having these kinds of symptoms, you should go to a sexual health clinic for testing and treatment.
Pain and swelling in the testicles
Painful and swollen testicles can sometimes be caused by an STI like chlamydia, particularly if it is left untreated and progresses to epididymo-orchitis. This is a condition where the epididymis (the tube at the back of the testicles) and the testicles become inflamed, causing:
- Swelling, normally on one side
- An enlarged scrotum
Another cause of pain and swelling is testicular torsion. This is where one of your testicles twists around in the scrotum. The symptoms are quite distinctive as the pain is very sudden and severe, and often accompanied by pain in the abdomen, nausea and vomiting.
If you have swollen and painful testicles, or if you’ve noticed a change to the shape or feel of your testicles, you should see your GP. If you suspect testicular torsion, you should get emergency help by going to A&E or calling 999.
A lump in the testicles
It can be really scary to find a lump in your testicles, but it’s usually nothing to worry about. Most of the time the lump will be something harmless like a build-up of fluid or a swollen vein. However, sometimes a lump is a sign of cancer, which is why it’s important to get it checked by your GP.
It’s also a good idea to get in the habit of checking your testicles regularly so you’re familiar with how they look and feel. Read this article for some simple tips: Checking your testicles – what to look out for.
How do I know if I have cancer of the penis or testicles?
There are various symptoms that can point to penile or testicular cancer, so it’s good to keep an eye out for any new changes. Developing these kinds of symptoms does not mean you have cancer, but it’s still important to get them checked.
Symptoms of penile cancer include:
- A sore or growth that doesn’t heal within four weeks
- A rash
- Smelly discharge
- Thickening of the skin
- A change in the colour of the skin
Symptoms of testicular cancer include:
- A painless swelling or lump in one testicle
- A change in the shape or texture of the testicles
- A difference in appearance between your testicles
- Pain in the testicles or scrotum
- A heavy feeling in your scrotum
If you experience any of these symptoms, go to your GP. Remember: an early cancer diagnosis can make treatment easier and more effective.