Psoriasis is medically referred to as an autoimmune condition that causes red and purple patches of sore, scaly, and itchy skin. Approximately 60% of people diagnosed with psoriasis also experience genital psoriasis in the more sensitive skin folds around the vagina and anus at least once in their life.
Even though it can be embarrassing, it is important to speak with your dermatologist or healthcare provider should you notice symptoms of genital psoriasis on or around your genitals.
Read on, to learn more about genital psoriasis, how to recognize it, what causes it, and the treatment options available.
What Causes Psoriasis and Genital Psoriasis?
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis is known to affect all ethnicities and approximately 3% of people worldwide have been diagnosed with the condition. Additionally, 33% of those diagnosed typically know a family member with the condition too.
Psoriasis essentially causes skin cells to form at an accelerated pace, which then accumulates into scaly patches or lesions. Although researchers have found that genetics, irregularities within the immune system, and/or external triggers are linked to the development of psoriasis, it is still unclear what exactly causes the rapid skin cell growth.
Symptoms of Genital Psoriasis
The most common type of psoriasis experienced around the genitals and groin is called Inverse Psoriasis and it is usually more painful than other types of psoriasis due to the sensitive nature of the skin in this area.
Inverse psoriasis can also occur in the underarms and under the breasts, and symptoms can vary depending on which part of the genitals is affected.
The most common symptoms of genital psoriasis include:
- Smooth, tight, red or purple skin (as opposed to scaly) around the pubis and vulva
- Intense itchiness around the vagina, groin, or anus
- A thickening of the vulvar skin
- Cracked skin or open lesions on the vulva or skin folds of the groin
- Discomfort & sometimes severe pain from open lesions
- A worsening of symptoms within the folds of genital skin when the groin becomes sweaty
- Small patches of scaly, red, or purple skin on the upper thighs
- Infections within the folds of skin around the vagina or groin
Psoriasis Triggers: What Are They?
In addition to inheriting the genes that are believed to cause psoriasis, medical researchers believe that the following external triggers can activate a psoriasis flare anywhere on the body, including the genitals:
- Feeling stressed
- Cold weather
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Other infections, like strep throat, yeast infections, or skin infections
- Skin injuries, like an insect bite, scrape, cut, or sunburn
- Certain medications, like anti-malaria meds, blood pressure medication, iodides, and lithium
Urine, feces, and clothes that are too tight around the groin are also believed to trigger genital psoriasis flares.
Genital Psoriasis and Sex
Even though having sex with genital psoriasis can increase skin irritation afterward, it is not off-limits as long as it doesn’t cause too much pain, and it cannot be sexually transmitted to a partner.
However, due to the discomfort that sex with genital psoriasis can cause, it can be helpful to speak with your partner about taking things slow, and being able to admit, guilt-free, when a recent psoriasis flare is too uncomfortable for sex.
When you are ready to have sex, using water-based lubrication or lubricated condoms can help to reduce the irritation and friction that can result from skin-to-skin contact during sex with genital psoriasis.
Cleaning the genitals with warm water and unscented soap after sex will help to soothe the area before patting it dry and applying an organic moisturizer like the Enchanted Rose Natural Vaginal Moisturizer from Intimate Rose.
Once the moisturizer dries, re-apply the topical cream recommended by your healthcare provider and wear loose underwear and clothing for comfort.
Treatment Options for Genital Psoriasis
For some, genital psoriasis is difficult to treat and for others, flares tend to subside by regularly applying an organic moisturizer. Unfortunately, because genital psoriasis is a chronic condition, flares will return.
If you experience pain, severe itching, and open lesions during genital psoriasis flares, working closely with a dermatologist to develop the most suitable treatment plan for you is the best way forward.
Depending on your symptoms, triggers, and the severity of your genital psoriasis flares; treatment options range from organic moisturizers and topical creams that relieve itching and slow the growth of skin cells to UV lights, biologics, and oral medication.
Additional tips for treating genital psoriasis include consuming lots of fiber in your diet, avoiding long baths, using high-quality toilet paper to avoid further irritation, and ensuring that any urine or feces is cleaned from the genitals after a bathroom visit.
Genital psoriasis occurs in over 60% of people diagnosed with psoriasis and can result in smooth, tight, skin in red or purple patches around the genitals; as well as red, scaly patches of skin on the upper thighs. Intense itching around the groin, vagina, and anus can also occur.
Even though it might feel disconcerting to experience symptoms of genital psoriasis, it is nothing to be embarrassed about, and it is important to consult with a dermatologist to develop a treatment plan that works for you.
National Psoriasis Foundation – About Psoriasis - https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/
National Library of Medicine - Prevalence of genital psoriasis in patients with psoriasis - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29565190/
American Academy of Dermatology Association – How Can I Treat Genital Psoriasis - https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/psoriasis/treatment/genitals/genital-treat
WebMD - Genital Psoriasis & Intimacy - https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/psoriasis/features/genital-psoriasis-intimacy