Having a dry foreskin or dry genitals can be very uncomfortable, and you may be wondering if an STD is to blame for this. The truth is that although some STDs can cause dry skin, there are many different possible causes for this issue. Learning how to recognize STD symptoms can help you determine when you should seek medical assistance.
Keep reading to learn more about which STDs can cause a dry vagina or dry penis, and other skin problems.
Can STDs cause dry skin on genitals?
Dry skin on your private area isn’t the most common sign of an STD, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Certain STDs are more likely to cause dry skin on the testicles, penis, vagina, and other parts of the genitourinary system. However, symptoms such as dry balls or vagina can also be related to non-STD causes.
Let’s talk about some of the STDs that cause dry skin on scrotum and other parts of the body.
STDs that affect the skin
The human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, can lead to different skin problems. According to NAM Aidsmap, one of the first signs of an HIV infection can be a skin rash. This rash can be part of a process called seroconversion illness. The characteristics of the rash can include:
- Non-itchy, red rash that lasts 2 to 3 weeks
- The rash generally affects the upper body
- It can be accompanied by flu-like symptoms
HIV-associated salivary disease can also lead to a decrease in saliva production, which can cause uncomfortable complications such as a dry mouth, chapped lips, mouth ulcers, oral infections, bad breath, cavities, and gum disease.
HIV also increases the risk of a skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis, which affects the oily parts of the body, such as the scalp and face.
HIV/AIDS can cause other skin issues. Once the body starts to recover after beginning HIV treatment, patients can also experience acne and folliculitis. Antiretroviral medications can also cause skin reactions, which can lead to a rash, itching, peeling hands, and other symptoms.
A rash can be a sign of a serious adverse reaction to HIV medications called Stevens Johnson syndrome (SJS). According to the Mayo Clinic, other signs of SJS include:
- A sore mouth and throat
- Burning sensation in the eyes
- Skin pain
- Blisters on the skin and mucous membranes
- Peeling skin
Herpes can cause both oral and genital sores; HSV-1 is the most common cause of oral herpes, while HSV-2 is often responsible for genital herpes. According to the CDC, symptoms of herpes include:
- Small blisters on or around the genitals, mouth, or rectum
- The blisters break open and reveal painful sores that scab over before healing
- The blisters are usually preceded by a painful, tingling, or burning sensation
- Flu-like symptoms are also common during the first outbreak
The blisters caused by this STD can also lead to dry, chapped lips; scabs on the face; and other uncomfortable symptoms. Herpes is a chronic infection that can’t be cured, so anyone who has been infected with herpes could experience these symptoms during different points of their lives. Fortunately, recurrent outbreaks are typically much shorter and milder than the initial outbreak.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, some situations that could trigger herpes outbreaks include:
- Stressful conditions
- A suppressed immune system
- Another illness
- Excessive sun exposure
- Surgical procedures
Herpes can also increase your risk of developing eczema herpeticum (EH). EH, which is also known as Kaposi varicelliform eruption, is more common in children and in people who also have atopic dermatitis. People with dry skin (which can look like dry knuckles or a dry face, for example), have a higher risk of developing this complication.
According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, symptoms of eczema herpeticum can include:
- An itchy, painful rash that appears suddenly
- Small lesions that are filled with pus or clear fluid
- The lesions concentrate in the areas that are affected by dermatitis
- The lesions can rupture and reveal ulcers
- Swollen lymph nodes
Most cases of EH are self-limiting and resolve on their own; however, the condition increases the risk of herpes entering the bloodstream in immunosuppressed patients. As a result, it’s always a good idea to seek medical attention if you notice signs of EH.
A rash is one of the most common symptoms of secondary syphilis, which is the stage that happens after the painless syphilis chancre has healed. This rash can be red, brown, and it typically starts in the trunk before spreading to other parts of the body. The rash can cause dry, scaly skin and it can be accompanied by patchy hair loss. It heals on its own without leaving scars; however, the patient will still have syphilis and can spread it to other partners.
Other causes of dry skin on your genitals
As we mentioned above, not all causes of dry skin on your genitals are related to STDs. Dry skin on the penile head and other parts can be caused by multiple conditions or situations, including:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Allergic reactions
- Irritation from sweating
- Underwear fabrics
- Scented hygiene products
If you’re unsure about the cause of the dry skin on your genitals, it’s always a good idea to get tested for STDs. Getting tested using at-home testing kits is easy, affordable, and comfortable. You can learn more about STD testing and other topics at STDWatch.com.
Skin problems - aidsmap.com
Stevens-Johnson syndrome - mayoclinic.org
Genital Herpes – CDC Fact Sheet - cdc.gov
Genital Herpes - my.clevelandclinic.org
ECZEMA HERPETICUM - aocd.org