A urologist explains the causes of a fish-like smell around the penis. 

That fishy smell from your penis is caused by certain problems that you can remedy.

A fishy smell around your penis is not normal. A fishy stink on or around the penile region has specific causes.

David H.C. King, MD, Medical Director, Urology Services, El Camino Hospital Los Gatos, speaks about the causes and solutions to a fishy smell coming from the penis.

Dr. King explains, “The most common causes of bad smell around the penis would be related to poor hygiene and skin infections.

“Uncircumcised men need to pull their foreskin all the way back to wash the head of their penis once or twice a day with soapy water.

“If that is not done, then secretions and a substance called smegma can accumulate and cause a bad smell.”

What exactly is smegma?

The top layer of the skin is called the epidermis.

When the epidermal cells flake off and get mixed with an oily subtance called sebum, a pasty substance with a foul-smell results: smegma.

This accumulation collects in the moist areas of the genitals, particularly in men who have not been circumcised.

Dr. King continues: “The foreskin always needs to be put back covering the head of the penis or else a painful condition called paraphimosis can occur, which traps the foreskin above the head of the penis.”

In paraphimosis, the foreskin cannot be pulled back down into its normal position.

The foreskin can get trapped behind the penis if left retracted for too long, because this then causes the male organ to swell.

“Both uncirumcised and circumcised men can have bad smell around their penis if they get an infection from their sexual partners called bacterial vaginosis, gardnerella, or trichomonas,” says Dr. King.

Some men, who have a fishy smell about their genitalia, report that the odor is very similar or just like the odor from a woman’s vagina  —

— a fishy odor caused by bacterial vaginosis, which is when the normal balance of vaginal bacteria becomes upset.

Other Causes of a Fishy Odor About the Penis

Urinary tract infection  —  this causes foul-smelling urine, and since urine exits the penis, then this foul smell can make its way onto the male organ.

Ketonuria (in diabetics)  —  the urine contains ketone bodies (byproducts of fatty acid breakdown)

Some men report that the bad or fishy smell about their penis is still there despite daily cleaning with soap and water, and even retracting the foreskin.

The reasons for this, explains Dr. King, are:

“In that case it could be either the man’s own body odor causing a smell or a persistent bacterial or yeast infection.

“A skin swab culture should be taken to diagnose an infection and be treated appropriately.

“If the culture is negative, then personal pleasant smelling lotions or deodorant can be used.”

With 20+ years in general urology, Dr. King specializes in prostate disorders, kidney stones and urinary problems in men and women.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 
Top image: Shutterstock/Andrey_Popov