The causes of male anogenital pruritus, or genital itching, can be relatively mild or symptomatic of a more serious ailment. Genital itching is a common complaint among male patients. To diagnose the source of the problem, a physician will question a patient about its duration, whether the itching is confined to one area, if there are any additional symptoms and if the patient has a history of illness or sexually transmitted diseases. In some cases, the genital itching is idiopathic. It has no discernible cause.
Tinea cruris, or jock itch, typically affects adolescent or adult males. Jock itch is a fungal infection that is normally localized to the area surrounding the genitalia or inner thighs. The fungus often targets the top skin layer, although it can also infect nails and hair. Tinea cruris is similar to the type of bacteria that causes athlete’s foot. Jock itch is easily treated by anti-fungal ointments. Physicians also advise that a man suffering from jock itch shower after any physical activity, thoroughly wash all towels and linens, wear loose clothing and keep his genital region clean and dry.
Phthirus pubis, or pubic lice, normally infects adolescent males. The tiny insects, also referred to as crabs, infect the genital region and lay eggs in the pubic hair. Infection can occur from coming in contact with infected linens, towels, toilets or clothes. Pubic lice can also be transmitted through sexual activity. The lice can be removed with a single treatment of a prescription shampoo but infection can reoccur if linens and clothing are not destroyed or cleansed thoroughly with hot water.
Scabies is a dermatological condition caused by mites. Highly contagious, scabies can infect both children and adults. Often, entire families are infected by the mites. Besides genital itching, scabies can also cause a bright red cluster of small bumps on the affected area. The rash may spread to the buttocks and to other body parts as well. Doctors usually prescribe a topical cream or solution to treat scabies.
Sometimes, male genital itching will have no apparent cause. In the January 2005 issue of the “Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology,” Dr. Arnon Cohen wrote that idiopathic cases of male genital itching can sometimes be attributed to lumbosacral radiculopathy, nerve damage that can cause lower back and leg pain. In Dr. Cohen’s study, patients with idiopathic genital itching reported improvement in their symptoms after being injected with a localized anesthetic to treat nerve damage.
- “Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology”;Neuropathic Scrotal Pruritus; Arnon D. Cohen, M.D.; January 2005
Sydney Hornby specializes in metabolic disease and reproductive endocrinology. He is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College and Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, where he earned his M.D., and has worked for several years in academic medical research. Writing for publication since 1995, Hornby has had articles featured in "Medical Care," "Preventive Medicine" and "Medical Decision Making."