5 Balanitis (Inflammation of the Head of the Penis) Symptoms, Causes, and Cures

  • Medical Author:
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

What is balanitis (inflammation of the head of penis)?

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 are the signs and symptoms of balanitis? Is it painful?

Usually, most common signs and symptoms of balanitis are :

  1. Redness or mild swelling
  2. Iitching
  3. Rash
  4. Irritation or pain on or around the penis

An odorous discharge can accompany these symptoms.

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 glans 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).
  • Balanitis is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD); however, it can have similar symptoms, for example, itching and redness). 

Is Balanitis Contagious?

Balanitis or also referred to as inflammation of the head of an uncircumcised penis may or may not be contagious if it's caused by:

  1. Bacteria
  2. Viruses
  3. Fungus
  4. Skin irritants

How is balanitis diagnosed?

A health-care professional will usually be able to diagnose balanitis based on 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.

Which medications treat 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.

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.

Which home remedies or OTC medications soothe pain and treat balanitis?

Switching soaps or other possible offending irritants can be helpful. Other times, the doctor will prescribe oral or topical medications.

What is the prognosis for balanitis? Can it be cured?

The prognosis of balanitis is generally good.

Can balanitis be prevented?

The risk of balanitis can be reduced with proper hygiene, but not all balanitis can be prevented depending on the underlying cause. Circumcision has been advocated as a way of preventing or reducing the risk of balanitis in patients who had multiple episodes.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/12/2018
References
REFERENCES:

Fakjian N, Hunter S, Cole GW, Miller. An argument for circumcision. Prevention of balanitis in the adult. J. Arch Dermatol. 1990 Aug;126(8):1046-7.

Herzog LW, Alvarez SR. e frequency of foreskin problems in uncircumcised children. Am J Dis Child. 1986 Mar;140(3):254-6.
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