While it is quite normal for the penis to swell with blood during sexual arousal to form an erection, the other soft tissues in the structure of the penis can become swollen due to injury.
The penis and scrotum have very sensitive skin that can become inflamed and swollen after an injury. More rarely, the shaft or head of the penis can appear swollen from fluid tracking down from the abdomen due to gravity.
Causes of penis swelling and injury
Injuries to the penis can include scratches and bites, knocks, burns, or internal injury from objects inserted into the urethra. Sometimes contact with creams and lotions that cause a local allergic reaction can cause painful swelling.
You can fracture your penis if too much force is put on it while it's erect. You might hear a crack or a pop, followed by bruising and pain. A fractured penis needs urgent surgery, preferably within six hours of the fracture.
The penis can also become hard and swollen due to Peyronie's disease. The condition can cause the penis to be painful, bent or less flexible. Peyronie's disease usually gets better on its own.
Looking after yourself
If you have penis swelling or injury, here's how you can look after yourself.
- Any cuts or grazes can be temporarily covered with a clean, dry dressing or cotton handkerchief.
- Loosely covering the area with clean cling film is a good alternative to a dressing, and is especially useful if the area has been burnt.
- Do not apply any creams, lotions or homemade remedies to any wounds.
- If there is any bleeding, apply direct pressure with the finger tips for at least 10 minutes.
- Do not wrap anything around the penis or scrotum, such as a bandage, tourniquet or sticky tape.
- Do not try to remove any foreign body since, this may cause more damage or serious bleeding. It is very important that a foreign body is removed only by a doctor.
- If there is anything tight around the penis or scrotum, this should be removed immediately, as long as you can do so without causing any injury to yourself.
- Protect the area as much as possible to prevent further damage or injury when going to see your doctor or to hospital.
- An ice pack may relieve swelling, but it should not be placed directly against the skin. Try wrapping a bag of frozen peas in a cloth, such as a clean tea towel, and mould this around the swollen area.
- If you are in pain, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice on medicines you can take.
Suspicion of deliberate injury
If you have any suspicions that the injury was inflicted - on purpose - and not the result of an accident, you should seek help from a healthcare professional as soon as possible. This could be a nurse or doctor at an emergency department, or a doctor's surgery, or a health visitor or school nurse.
If you are unsure who to speak to, we would strongly urge you to call the healthdirect on 1800 022 222 to discuss your concerns. See the Find local health services section for links to agencies that can also offer confidential advice.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about your penis swelling or injury, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Last reviewed: September 2017