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Balanitis

Balanoposthitis

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

Causes

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

  • Diseases, such as reactive arthritis and lichen sclerosus 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 swelling 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

Fort GG. Balanitis. In: Ferri FF, ed. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2018. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:171-171.

McCammon KA, Zuckerman JM, Jordan GH. Surgery of the penis and urethra. In: Wein AJ, Kavoussi LR, Partin AW, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 40.

Mirowski GW, Schlosser BJ. Balanitis. In: Lebwohl MG, Heymann WR, Berth-Jones J, Coulson I, eds. Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2014:chap 21.

  • Male reproductive anatomy

    Male reproductive anatomy - illustration

    The male reproductive structures include the penis, the scrotum, the testes, the epididymis, the seminal vesicles, and the prostate.

    Male reproductive anatomy

    illustration

  • Penis - with and without foreskin

    Penis - with and without foreskin - illustration

    The penis is covered by a retractable hood of skin called the foreskin, or prepuce. It is the structure which is removed in the procedure known as circumcision.

    Penis - with and without foreskin

    illustration

    • Male reproductive anatomy

      Male reproductive anatomy - illustration

      The male reproductive structures include the penis, the scrotum, the testes, the epididymis, the seminal vesicles, and the prostate.

      Male reproductive anatomy

      illustration

    • Penis - with and without foreskin

      Penis - with and without foreskin - illustration

      The penis is covered by a retractable hood of skin called the foreskin, or prepuce. It is the structure which is removed in the procedure known as circumcision.

      Penis - with and without foreskin

      illustration

     

    Review Date: 8/26/2017

    Reviewed By: Jennifer Sobol, DO, urologist with the Michigan Institute of Urology, West Bloomfield, MI. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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