What causes genital rash?

Genital rashes can be caused by non-infectious conditions, such as allergic reactions, irritation, or inflammation, or by infectious conditions. Many of the infectious conditions are spread sexually, although some are not.

Infectious causes of genital rash

Genital rash may be caused by infections including:

  • Erythrasma (superficial Corynebacterium minutissimum skin infection of moist skin areas)
  • Genital herpes (sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 or 2)
  • Granuloma inguinale (sexually transmitted infection that is rare in the United States)
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV, the virus that causes genital warts)
  • Molluscum contagiosum (skin infection caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus)
  • Pubic lice (also called “crabs”; parasitic insects that live in the pubic hair)
  • Scabies (contagious skin disease caused by small mites)
  • Syphilis (sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum)
  • Tinea cruris (“jock itch” or “ringworm of the groin”; fungal skin infection)
  • Yeast infection

Other causes of genital rash

Genital rash can also be caused by other diseases, disorders or conditions including:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Atopic dermatitis or eczema
  • Chemical irritants, such as soaps, feminine hygiene products, perfumes, lubricants, douches, or creams
  • Folliculitis (irritation and ingrown hairs following pubic hair shaving)
  • Lichen simplex chronicus (chronic skin condition associated with itching and scratching and thickening of the skin)
  • Psoriasis (itchy skin condition associated with skin irritation and redness, often with areas of thickened, red skin with white flaky patches)

Questions for diagnosing the cause of genital rash

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your genital rash including:

  • When did you first notice the genital rash?
  • Have you changed soaps or detergents lately or started using any feminine hygiene products?
  • Have you had a genital rash before?
  • Is there anything that seems to make it better or worse?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Have you been intimate with anyone who has similar symptoms?
  • Are other areas of your body affected?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of genital rash?

Because genital rash can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Tissue scarring and skin disfigurement
  • Secondary or tertiary syphilis (complications of untreated syphilis, including rashes, heart disease, neurologic disease, or tumors of the skin, bone or liver)
  • Secondary skin infection (infection that develops on top of the current condition, often due to scratching)
  • Spread of infectious disease to close contact or sexual partner
  • Susceptibility to additional sexually transmitted infections


  1. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/sexually_transmitted_diseases.cfm.
  2. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/std/Pages/default.aspx.
  3. Kahan S, Miller R, Smith EG (Eds.). In A Page Signs & Symptoms, 2d ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Williams, 2009.
  4. Bope ET, Kellerman RD (Eds.) Conn’s Current Therapy.Philadelphia: Saunders, 2013.

What is genital rash?

Although genital skin rashes can be related to noninfectious conditions, such as allergic reactions and contact dermatitis, many genital rashes are due to sexually transmitted infections. The area may be reddened with blisters or sores, or may retain its normal color but have noticeable bumps. Other symptoms, such as discharge, pain, burning with urination, or itching, may also occur.
Read more about genital rashintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with genital rash?

A genital rash may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Conditions that cause genital rashes can cause other genital symptoms or affect other body systems.

Genital symptoms that may occur along with genital rash

Genital rash may accompany other symptoms affecting the genitals including:

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Sexual Health

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