Genital care

Taking care of your penis and genital area can help prevent infection and help you spot unusual lumps or swellings.

Why is this important?

It’s important to get to know your body so you can get anything unusual checked by a doctor as soon as possible. Regular and careful washing is an easy way to care for and check your genitals.

Lumps and swellings

There are several causes of testicular lumps and swellings, including enlarged veins, collections of fluid, chlamydia or testicular cancer. Although only about 4 in 100 lumps are cancerous, it’s important to check yourself regularly as early detection of cancer can make treatment much more effective. Testicular cancer is uncommon but more commonly occurs in young men between the ages of 15 years to 49 years old.

Testicular torsion

A sudden, painful swelling that occurs when a testicle becomes twisted - this is a medical emergency and requires surgery as soon as possible.

Balanitis

If you don't wash underneath the foreskin properly, a cheesy-looking substance called smegma may start to build up.

Smegma is a natural lubricant that keeps the penis moist. If smegma collects in the foreskin, it can start to smell, and cause an overgrowth of bacteria. This can cause redness and swelling of the head of your penis, called balanitis.

Balanitis can also be caused by bacterial infections, STIs or irritation by soaps and gels.

Most cases of balanitis are easily managed with a combination of creams or ointments, good hygiene and avoiding substances that irritate the penis. Read more in our Questions section.

What does this mean for me?

Wash your penis with warm water each day when you're having a shower or bath. If you have foreskin, pull it back gently and wash underneath. Circumcised men have to be just as careful about cleaning their penis.

Don't forget to clean the base of the penis, testicles and the area between the base of the testicles and the anus where sweat and hair can combine to produce a strong smell.

It’s a good idea to avoid perfumed soaps, gels, antiseptics, talc and deodorants as these can cause skin irritation.

How do I check my testicles?

Look and feel for any unusual lumps or swellings during or after a warm bath or shower, at least once a month. If possible, stand in front of a mirror. Check for any swelling on the skin around your testicles.

Examine each testicle with both hands. Place the index and middle fingers under the testicle with the thumbs placed on top. Roll the testicle gently between the thumbs and fingers - you shouldn't feel any pain when doing this.

Most men’s testicles are about the same size, though it’s common for one to be slightly bigger than the other, or for one to hang lower than the other.

The testicles should feel smooth, without any lumps or bumps, and firm but not hard. You may feel a soft tube at the back of each testicle, which is called the epididymis.

If you notice any changes or anything unusual about your testicles, or if you feel pain in a testicle, you should visit a sexual health clinic or see your GP.

Questions?

It is fine to use soap when washing but avoid anything that irritates your skin and if you have sensitive skin then you may wish to avoid perfumed soaps or shower gels.