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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.