Not to mention that your penis affects others. (By this, we mean if you have a sexually transmitted infection and don’t get treated, you’re not just putting your health at risk, but you’re also putting your partners’ health at risk.)
Before we begin, a quick refresher on the anatomy of your crown and jewels. Your penis has two chambers inside of it called the corpora cavernosa. “About one-third of these are inside the body and two-thirds are outside in the penile shaft,” Drogo Montague, M.D., a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic, previously told Men’s Health. These chambers are made up of spongy tissue and contain blood vessels. (These blood vessels fill with blood, which is how you get erect!)
Alright, with all that out of the way, here are eight of the most common types of penis (and testicular) pain, as well as the possible causes of—and solutions to—each of them. (And we're just going to say this point-blank: When in doubt, see a goddamn doctor.)
1. Why does the tip of my penis hurt?
The pain: A burning or sharp pain at the tip of your penis.
The cause: If you’re lucky, this could just be the result of a little soap or shampoo slipping inside the opening at the end of your penis, says Tobias Köhler, M.D., urology chair at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, Illinois. If this is the case, you're likely to feel irritation immediately after the soap creeps into your urethra, but sometimes you won't feel any discomfort until you urinate.
If the pain doesn’t go away after a day or two, it could be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection (STI), especially if it’s accompanied by a green-ish or white-ish discharge. Another possible cause, according to Köhler, is a kidney stone, although the pain in your tip would usually be accompanied by an ache in your lower stomach.
The solution: Give it a couple days. If the pain goes away or fades, you’re fine. If it persists or gets worse, it's probably time to see a doctor.
2. Why does my scrotum hurt?
The pain: A dull, heavy ache in your scrotum that seems to show up after you’ve lifted weights, moved heavy furniture or were standing for a long period of time. Typically, the pain will subside when you lie down.
The cause: Varicocele, which is an enlargement of the veins within your scrotum that heats up your testicles and causes tenderness or a dull pain. “A lot of guys describe this as having blue worms in their sack,” Köhler says. Blood collecting due to the scrotal veins enlarging can hurt your ability to produce sperm and testosterone.
The symptoms can depend on which stage varicocele you have. Grade 3 varicoceles are largest and most noticeable and can feel thick and lumpy. Grade 2 are not as intense, though they still may feel a little ropey. You may not even notice if you have a grade 1 varicocele.
The solution: See a doctor as soon as possible, although there's no need to peel into the emergency room.
3. Why does my erection hurt?
The pain: An erection that won’t go away, and hurts like hell.
The cause: Though most men who suffer from erectile dysfunction are not able to get blood to flow into the penis, a perma-boner is the result of a priapism, or a problem with the way blood flows out of the penis while erect. During a healthy erection, blood should be flowing both ways, according to Köhler
Eventually, the blood trapped in your penis as a result of a priapism becomes “deoxygenated,” which causes pain. Köhler says this typically happens to men who are mixing erectile dysfunction medications like Viagra or Cialis with drugs like cocaine or ecstasy. So yeah, don't do that. A priapism can also be caused by erectile dysfunction medication that is injected directly into the penis, which we would also advise against.
“Or, it may come about for no reason at all,” Köhler adds. OK then.
The solution: Emergency room. ASAP.
4. Why do my testicles hurt?
The pain: A sharp, shooting pain in your testicles that doesn’t let up and may be accompanied by nausea or vomiting.
The cause: One testicle may have become twisted in your scrotum, which cuts off the blood flow and oxygen it needs to stay healthy. “Basically, this is like your testicle is having a heart attack,” Köhler explains. The condition is called “testicular torsion,” and it could cost you one of your boys if you don’t act fast, he says.
Testicles are attached to the body by spermatic cords, which run into the abdomen, and by fleshy anchors near the scrotum. It's not terribly uncommon for men to be born without the latter, which increases the likelihood of testicular torsion.
Do this: Emergency room. Now. “If you don’t untwist the testicle within a couple hours, you could lose it,” Köhler says. Dr. Jon Pryor, a urologist with the University of Minnesota, concurs. “If you catch it in 4 to 6 hours, you can usually save the testicle,” he says. “But after 12 to 24 hours, you’ll probably lose it.”
5. Why does the top of my scrotum ache?
The pain: A persistent ache or tenderness at the top of the scrotum, near the base of the penis. It may gradually become worse, and could be accompanied by swelling or redness.
The cause: This is likely epididymitis, or an infection of the epididymis, the small organ located between your penis and testicles that stores your sperm while they learn how to swim, says Köhler. In men younger than 35, this infection is usually caused by an STI. In men 35 and older, it’s more often the cause of a bacterial infection.
The solution: Get it checked out by a physician as soon as possible. If the pain keeps getting worse, you could be dealing with testicular torsion (see above), in which case you need to get to the emergency room, stat.
6. Why does it burn when I pee?
The pain: A sharp pain during urination.
The cause: The worst-case scenario is that you're dealing with bladder cancer, according to Joseph A. Smith, M.D., chairman of the department of urologic surgery at Vanderbilt University. Pain during urination and blood in the urine, which can cause a rusty discolouration.
A more common cause, however, is a urinary tract infection (UTI), which happens when bacteria finds its way into your urethra. Another possibility is that you have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) like gonorrhoea.
The solution: Go to a doctor!
7. Why does the curve of my penis hurt?
The pain: A feeling of pain during an erection or intercourse, along with a pop or snap in the penis shortly before an erection.
The cause: While many men are born with a slight curvature or bend in their penis, a more extreme curvature is seen in men with Peyronie's disease, and it usually appears in middle age. It's caused by a fibrotic scar, or plaque, that has formed within the penis, creating the bend.
The exact cause of Peyronie's disease isn't entirely clear, but some researchers believe the plaque can form after an erect penis has been abnormally hit or bent during sex or athletic activity.
The solution: Head to a doctor to see if your curve truly is the result of Peyronie's disease. The good news is that pain of Peyronie’s disease is usually mild, and the condition inhibits intercourse in only about 1 per cent to 2 per cent of men, as urologist Ryan Berglund, MD, told Cleveland Clinic. But the curvature can interfere with sexual activity if it's severe enough, and in those cases physicians will usually intervene with oral medications, injections, or surgery.
8. Why does my foreskin hurt?
The pain: Foreskin pain usually presents as tightness and/or swelling.
The cause: Some men are born with tighter foreskin than others, but it usually goes away in childhood (phimosis). If your foreskin suddenly gets tight, swollen, and painful, it may be due to paraphimosis, a condition where the foreskin can no longer be pulled into its normal position over the tip of the penis. It's usually caused when foreskin is pulled back for an extended period of time.
Paraphimosis causes the foreskin to become swollen, which can slow the flow of blood to the tip of the penis, and it can lead to tissue death or impaired penis function if it isn't treated quickly.
The solution: Head to the ER, where a doctor will try to manually try to pull the foreskin forward using ice or a bandage. As a report from The Scientific World Journal states, a physician may make a small incision or perform an emergency circumcision in extreme cases.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health US.