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Male reproductive anatomy
Male reproductive anatomy


Circumcised vs. uncircumcised
Circumcised vs. uncircumcised


Balanitis

Definition:

Balanitis is swelling of the foreskin and head of the penis.



Alternative Names:

Balanoposthitis



Causes:

Balanitis is most often caused by poor hygiene in uncircumcised men. Other possible causes include:

  • Diseases such as reactive arthritis and lichen sclerosis atrophicus
  • Infection
  • Harsh soaps
  • Not rinsing soap off properly while bathing
  • Uncontrolled diabetes


Symptoms:

Symptoms include:

  • Redness of foreskin or penis
  • Other rashes on the head of the penis
  • Foul-smelling discharge
  • Painful penis and foreskin


Exams and Tests:

Your health care provider may diagnose the problem with only an exam. However, you may need skin tests for viruses, fungi, or bacteria. A skin biopsy may also be needed.



Treatment:

Treatment depends on the cause of the balanitis.

  • Antibiotic pills or creams are used to treat balanitis that is caused by bacteria.
  • Steroid creams may help balanitis that occurs with skin diseases.
  • Anti-fungal cream will be prescribed if it is due to a fungus.

In severe cases, circumcision may be the best option. If you cannot pull back (retract) the foreskin to clean it, you may need to be circumcised.



Outlook (Prognosis):

Most cases of balanitis can be controlled with medicated creams and good hygiene. Surgery is not needed most of the time.



Possible Complications:

Long-term inflammation or infection can:

  • Scar and narrow the opening of the penis (meatal stricture)
  • Make it difficult and painful to retract the foreskin to expose the tip of the penis (a condition called phimosis)
  • Make it difficult to move the foreskin over the head of the penis (a condition called paraphimosis)
  • Affect the blood supply to the tip of the penis
  • Increase the risk of penile cancer


When to Contact a Medical Professional:

Tell your provider if you have any signs of balanitis, including swelling of the foreskin or pain.



Prevention:

Good hygiene can prevent most cases of balanitis. When you bathe, pull back the foreskin to clean and dry the area under it.



References:

Elder JS. Anomalies of the penis and urethra. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW III, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 544.

Jordan GH, McCammon KA. Surgery of the penis and urethra. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 36.

Link RE. Cutaneous diseases of the external genitalia. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 15.




Review Date: 8/31/2015
Reviewed By: Jennifer Sobol, DO, urologist at the Michigan Institute of Urology, West Bloomfield, MI. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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