Balanitis (Penis Disorder)

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What is balanitis?

Balanitis is an inflammation of the skin of the head of penis (glans penis). If the foreskin is involved as well, it is referred to as balanoposthitis.

What causes balanitis?

Balanitis is usually found in uncircumcised males. Poor hygiene can contribute when the area under the foreskin is not washed regularly and bacteria, skin and sweat accumulate. Some underlying medical conditions can also increase the risk of balanitis, especially diabetes mellitus.

Allergies to certain chemicals can cause an allergic balanitis. This could be chemicals in soaps or other products in touch with the gland of the penis.

Certain infections (especially yeast infections) can cause a balanitis. Reactive arthritis (formerly Reiter syndrome) is associated with inflammation around the head of the penis (circinate balanitis). Some sexually transmitted diseases can have similar symptoms (itching, redness) but are not the cause of true balanitis.

What are the symptoms of balanitis?

Symptoms of balanitis are mostly redness or mild swelling, itching, rash, and irritation or pain on or around the penis. An odorous discharge or oozing serum can accompany these symptoms.

How is balanitis diagnosed?

A health-care professional will usually be able to diagnose balanitis based on a asking the patient questions (history) and physical examination. No additional tests are usually necessary. If a doctor suspects that the balanitis is caused by an underlying medical condition, the patient might require blood tests.

What is the treatment for balanitis?

First, the underlying cause is determined and the treatment directed against the reason for the condition. If there is an infection, the appropriate antifungal medication can be used. If it is a hygiene issue, daily habits are changed. Young boys may require instruction on how to retract and clean their foreskin.

Over-the-counter remedies for balanitis

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Switching soaps or other possible offending irritants can be helpful. In other situations the health-care professional will prescribe oral or topical medications.

Medications for balanitis

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The optimal medications will depend on the underlying cause of the balanitis. For examples, topical antifungal cream if Candida infection is present, or an antibiotic if a cellulitis is suspected will be prescribed. In refractory or repeated situations, the doctor might suggest circumcision as a possible way to prevent further infections by eliminating the overlying foreskin.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/24/2013

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