Most times, a little penis discoloration isn’t too big of a deal. It could be the result of several non-threatening issues. Things like Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (say that fast five times) or mild bruising (both generally due to activities like sex, sports, or umm… behaving a little too rough with oneself) can occur and these small, minor injuries to the penile skin might require a lot of R&R and a little OTC cream and pain reliever to get back to good. However, there are some times that discolored penile skin can be linked to something bigger and scarier. While it can be jarring, it’s important to know what’s out there, preferably before experiencing symptoms, so a man can catch anything serious early and head to the doc post-haste. Here are some of the more serious causes of discolored penile skin, their related symptoms, and an idea of what treatment entails.

1) Zoon’s Balanitis – While it sounds like something from outer space, it is a benign condition that can last from months to years. While benign, it’s staying power landed it on this list. Zoon’s tends to affect middle-aged to elderly men with uncircumcised penises. The condition presents as an orange-red to red-brown patch, generally on the glans, that is smooth and shiny. Over time, the patch can expand without treatment. Researchers have not been able to isolate a known cause, but poor hygiene, rubbing, smegma stones, and potentially, HPV, have been linked. Treatment usually consists of a high-potency corticosteroid cream or a CO2 laser. Medical attention must be sought for this

2) Hematomas – Bruising of the penis after an injury can result in darkening, sometimes to a dark purple, blue, or green hue. However, when that bruise is elevated to a hematoma, it becomes lumpy to the touch as blood from the injury pools beneath the skin. This can cause a very serious, very dangerous loss of blood flow. Men experiencing this should see a doctor immediately. Treatment can range from ice packs and ibuprofen to surgery to prevent the rupture of a major vein in the penis.

3) Stevens-Johnson Syndrome – Allergic reactions are entirely common and can happen on any part of the body, the penis included. However, if the penis turns a very distinguishable purple and stays that way, it’s possible the cause may be a severe allergic reaction to medication resulting in Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS). If the rash accelerates into peeling skin and sores, get to the emergency room ASAP. This is a very serious illness that can lead to death. There are specific medications which are more likely to cause SJS: sulfa-based antibiotics, ibuprofen, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, naproxen, and antibiotics. Be sure to bring medication to the emergency room. Treatment includes a full-range of professionally-given care and generally takes place in the ICU or burn unit due to the seriousness of the issue. In essence, those who suffer from SJS will need to grow back skin and should expect a hospital stay.

4) STIs – Often the first thing men worry about when noting a discolored penis skin, sexually transmitted infections like genital herpes and syphilis do have links to penis discoloration. Other symptoms to be on the lookout for include fever, itchiness, pain, fatigue, and a burning sensation in the genital area. Get to a doctor or clinic for testing. Treatment varies depending on the STI and the severity of the case.

5) Penile Cancer – No one ever likes to hear the C-word, but unfortunately, discolored penile skin is the first symptom of cancer. It can happen anywhere on the penis, so uncircumcised men should be sure to pull back foreskin for inspection regularly. This discoloration may also be accompanied by other symptoms like a lump, thickening of the penile skin, reddish rash, flat bluish-brown growths, a sour-smelling discharge, a lump in the groin, or unexplained pain in the penis. See a doctor as soon as possible for tests.

Preventing Discolored Penile Skin

First and foremost, practice safe sex. Use protection to prevent STIs and always have an open dialogue about sexual and medical history with partners, even if it sucks the romance out of the room. Be sure to conduct a weekly self-exam of the genital area, noting any differences and pains. Wear appropriate protective gear during group or adventure sports to minimize trauma or injury to the penis.

In addition to the tips above, employ a grooming regimen to keep the penis clean, healthy, and protected. Cleanse regularly and thoroughly with a gentle cleanser, being sure to clean all the folds and crevasses and rinsing well. Follow up cleansing with a specifically formulated penis health crème (health professionals recommend Man 1 Man Oil, which has been clinically proven safe and mild for skin) to hydrate and calm the penis. These specially created crèmes provide vitamins and nutrients like vitamins A, B5, C, D, and E topically to promote healthy skin and cellular function. Amino acids like L-Arginine and L-Carnitine help to protect the penis from nerve damage and promote healthy blood flow. This extra step promotes penis vitality and results in good, overall penis health.