Vitiligo is a skin pigment disorder that causes smooth white patches to appear on the skin. It’s believed to be an autoimmune disease that destroys pigment-producing cells called melanocytes.
Anyone can get vitiligo, although the white patches tend to be more noticeable on darker skin. Vitiligo can affect the skin on any part of the body, including the inside of the mouth and the penis and scrotum.
Here we will discuss the causes of vitiligo on the penis, how it can affect self-esteem and intimacy, and treatment options.
Vitiligo on the Penis Is Not a STI
While vitiligo on the penis can be embarrassing, it is important to note that it is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and is in no way contagious or harmful.
Penis Discoloration From Vitiligo
If you have vitiligo affecting your penis, you may eventually notice patches of depigmented skin on other parts of your body if you haven’t already.
There are several types of vitiligo:
- Generalized vitiligo, the most common type, is vitiligo that occurs all over your body.
- Localized vitiligo refers to vitiligo that occurs in one or two areas.
- Segmental vitiligo is vitiligo that only affects one side of your body. The patches can be smaller and tend to only affect a limited area.
Location and Appearance
Vitiligo of the penis usually appears on the foreskin and shaft rather than the head of the penis. However, it’s common for the white patches to also show up on the scrotum. Vitiligo may progress over time, resulting in larger areas of skin without pigmentation.
Causes of Vitiligo on Penis
Medical experts don’t know why some people stop producing melanin in certain areas, although it’s believed that a combination of stress and genetic factors are at play.
Vitiligo is thought to be an autoimmune condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells. If you have another autoimmune condition, such as lupus or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, you might have a higher risk of developing vitiligo.
You may also be more likely to develop it if you have a family history of vitiligo.
Why Genital Vitiligo Isn’t Contagious
It is very important to note that vitiligo is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can’t be spread by skin-to-skin contact, and you can’t catch it from someone else. It is most likely an autoimmune condition and isn’t triggered by a bacterial or viral infection. Also, genital vitiligo does not affect the function of the penis.
Self-Esteem and Intimacy
It’s common for people who have vitiligo of the penis to experience self-esteem concerns, especially when it comes to intimacy. You may be embarrassed to bring up your condition with a sexual partner or worry that they’ll think it’s contagious. If your vitiligo affects your self-esteem, a therapist or support group can help you manage your insecurities while offering advice on how best to bring up the subject with a sexual partner.
Vitiligo on Penis Treatments
Vitiligo on the penis doesn’t affect your health and therefore doesn’t require treatment. That being said, some options may help reduce the appearance of vitiligo. Keep in mind that vitiligo on your penis may be more challenging to treat than vitiligo in other areas due to the sensitivity of the genital skin.
Topical creams and ointments may help reduce the appearance of vitiligo. These include anti-inflammatory corticosteroid creams or ointments containing tacrolimus or pimecrolimus, which affect your body’s immune response.
You should only use a topical medication on your penis if your healthcare provider recommends it. Long-term use could cause side effects, such as skin irritation and thinning of the skin.
Light therapy using ultraviolet A or ultraviolet B or an excimer laser may help restore pigment to the skin of your penis. As part of your treatment, you may also be given oral or topical psoralen; this medication helps your body absorb more ultraviolet light.
Too much ultraviolet light exposure to the genitals can increase your risk of cancer, so make sure to work with a healthcare provider who has a lot of experience doing this type of treatment.
If other treatments are ineffective, surgery may be an option. Your healthcare provider may recommend circumcision if you only have vitiligo on your foreskin. In other cases, a surgeon might be able to take a small piece of skin from another area of your body and graft it onto the affected area.
Where to Go
A dermatologist or urologist may be able to provide further guidance about specific treatments for vitiligo on the penis.
Vitiligo is a skin condition that results in the loss of melanin, the pigment that gives your skin and hair their color. Vitiligo on the penis usually appears as white patches on the shaft, foreskin, and scrotum.
Vitiligo on the penis is not an STI and is not contagious. While there is no cure, there are treatments that can help bring back some of the original skin tone, such as medications, light therapy, and possibly surgery.
A Word From Verywell
While the appearance of vitiligo on the penis might make you uncomfortable, the most important takeaway is to remember the condition is harmless. It may take a while to get used to it, but with time—and possibly some help from a therapist or support group—you will hopefully get to the point where your genital vitiligo doesn’t bother you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are online penis discoloration products worth the money?
The short answer is no. Because topical products can irritate the skin of the genitals and cause other problems, they should only be used in consultation with your healthcare provider.
Is genital vitiligo reversible?
Vitiligo, including on the genitals, has no cure and is not reversible. But treatments are available that may help reduce the appearance of vitiligo and return some color to your skin.
Can vitiligo cause itching?
Vitiligo is not an STI and typically doesn’t cause itching, burning, or other discomfort.