Circumcised vs. Uncircumcised: What's the Difference?


Males are born with a hood of skin that covers the head of their penis.
Males are born with a hood of skin that covers the head of their penis.

Males are born with a hood of skin that covers the head of their penis. This hood is called the foreskin. The surgical removal of this foreskin is called circumcision. The circumcision is mostly done in childhood and may be done for either religious or medical purposes. Adults may also undergo circumcision for aesthetic reasons or medical reasons.

  • When an uncircumcised penis is erect, the foreskin will have to be retracted to reveal the penile head. For a circumcised penis, the head is always visible. An uncircumcised penis when flaccid may appear to be bulkier due to the presence of the foreskin.
  • Circumcision has been shown to prevent some sexually transmitted infections. When men are circumcised, they are less likely to get the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from their HIV-positive female partners. The inner lining of the foreskin has more of those cells that the HIV infects compared to other areas of the body, thus making it more susceptible to contracting the infection. HIV may survive in the space between the foreskin and the penis. In addition, certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and urinary tract infections (UTIs) are less common in circumcised men.
  • Male circumcision reduces the incidence of high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) in their female partners by 28%. However, it does not reduce the risk of nonulcerative STIs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. There is also evidence that circumcision can reduce the acquisition of ulcerative STIs, such as genital herpes and syphilis. Circumcision is also shown to prevent bacterial vaginosis (BV).
  • In an uncircumcised penis, dead cells, sweat, and dirt can accumulate under the foreskin. This can lead to the buildup of a thick secretion called smegma. The smegma is implicated in many penile problems, such as balanitis and posthitis. Thus, more efforts need to be made to maintain the proper hygiene of an uncircumcised penis. For a circumcised penis, however, maintaining hygiene is relatively easier by washing the penis while bathing to maintain good hygiene.
  • As per a few studies, women with uncircumcised partners are more prone to cervical cancer than women with circumcised partners. It has also been proven that circumcised men are less prone to penile cancer than uncircumcised men. Circumcision during infancy nearly eliminates the risk of penile cancer.
  • Though sexual drive remains the same in both cases. As per few researchers, circumcision may solve the problem of premature ejaculation for some men. Circumcision is believed to make the man last longer and this can be more pleasurable for both men and their partners.
  • Circumcision can affect the natural ability to lubricate the penis during intercourse and masturbation. However, this can be compensated for by using extra lubrication, which can enhance sex for both partners.

During the procedure:

The doctor may give a shot of numbing medicine at the base of the penis. The medicine will keep the patient from feeling pain, but they may be awake. In some cases, general anesthesia may also be given. The doctor uses a bell-like device to cover and protect the penile head during the surgery. Then, the doctor will make an incision and cut away the foreskin, which is pulled over the device. The edges of the skin will be closed with stitches that will dissolve within a few days. Petroleum jelly and a dressing will be placed on the area. Laser circumcision is a minimally invasive procedure that is being used widely nowadays. It involves no pain and no intra-operative bleeding.


Circumcision is about the personal preference of a person. It does not impact the size of the penis, sexual pleasure or sexual sensitivity, sperm production, etc. However, it can have a big impact on your hygiene and overall health. The uncut penis needs regular care under the foreskin to reduce any risk for urinary infections and other conditions. An individual must be more careful to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections, such as using condoms. The age at which the foreskin can be retracted varies from person to person. The foreskin typically cannot be retracted in children younger than 5 years, but it should be fully retractable by puberty.

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Allina Health's Patient Education Department. Circumcision. January 2, 2010.