Psoriasis, a skin condition causing red, scaly patches (plaques) on the skin, affects as many as 5% of people around the world. This condition is characterized by repeated flare-ups, usually in response to certain stressors or environmental triggers. If you have psoriasis, you may not realize plaques can appear anywhere on the skin—including the genitals. Many people with genital psoriasis initially misidentify the condition as a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Recognizing genital psoriasis may be difficult at first, but learning more about the condition helps you better identify psoriasis plaques when they occur. If you ever have questions about your condition, or need help determining whether your symptoms are caused by genital psoriasis vs. STDs, your doctor can help you pinpoint the exact cause of what you’re experiencing. Understanding Genital Psoriasis As the name implies, genital psoriasis is psoriasis occurring in the genital area. Genital psoriasis affects both men and women and can even affect children. Some research suggests as many as 63% of people living with psoriasis deal with genital psoriasis symptoms at some point in their lives. It’s thought genital psoriasis is so common because of the moisture, warmth, and rubbing that almost constantly occurs within the genital region. It’s possible to develop plaques on all or several parts of the genitals. Genital psoriasis may be present on: The pubic region The upper thighs Folds of skin between your thighs and groin The skin of the vulva in women The skin of the penis in men On the buttocks, anus, or surrounding area Like psoriasis on other parts of the body, the exact cause of genital psoriasis isn’t clear. But doctors think this condition develops due to genetic and environmental factors that trigger inflammation. Symptoms of Genital Psoriasis vs. STD Symptoms Unlike psoriasis elsewhere on the body, genital psoriasis usually appears as bright red, thin plaques with well-defined borders. In most cases, flaking, scaly skin doesn’t appear on the plaques because it is rubbed off by friction. Often, genital psoriasis causes itching and pain. Many women develop genital psoriasis patches that look bright red, silvery, or grey. The plaques may or may not be covered by flaky, scaly skin. For men, plaques may be scaly and bright red in color. Circumcised men are more likely to develop scaly plaques compared to uncircumcised men. Even though genital psoriasis usually causes certain symptoms, like itching, it’s important to keep in mind that most symptoms of this condition are very different from those typically caused by STDs. STD symptoms are caused by infection from bacteria, parasites, or viruses. In many cases, STDs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis cause symptoms such as: Discharge from the penis or vagina, which may be bloody, cloudy, or thick Painful urination or bowel movements Lower abdominal pain or testicular pain Swollen testicles Anal or vaginal itching or irritation Strong odor If you experience any symptoms suggesting an STD, it’s important to let your doctor know immediately. Left untreated, STDs can cause serious complications, including loss of fertility, pregnancy complications, and cancers of the reproductive system. Treatment Options for Genital Psoriasis Fortunately, there are many treatment options for genital psoriasis, and the condition usually responds well to treatment. Your doctor may suggest one or a combination of therapies to best meet your personal needs. In many cases, doctors recommend mild topical medications, such as steroid creams or vitamin D ointments, to help decrease inflammation and irritation. In some special circumstances, your doctor may recommend oral or injectable medications to target the root of the psoriasis. Dealing with genital psoriasis isn’t easy, but knowing what to look for will help you determine whether your condition is caused by psoriasis or an STD. And if you ever have questions about your condition, your doctor can make an accurate diagnosis so effective treatment can begin as soon as possible.