Symptoms of balanitis

Balanitis is a painful inflammation of the head of the penis. Balanitis is a symptom, not a condition and it can be caused by a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Balanitis is a painful inflammation of the head of the penis. Balanitis is a symptom, not a condition and it can be caused by a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Balanitis is a painful inflammation of the head of the penis. It’s very common, especially if you have an uncircumcised penis. The skin around the head can get irritated and uncomfortable. You should see a doctor if you think you have balanitis. It is often a sign of infection, and you may need medicine to fix the issue. 

Symptoms of balanitis include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • White, lumpy discharge under the foreskin 
  • A shiny or white appearance to the skin on the glans
  • Bleeding around foreskin
  • Difficulty pulling back the foreskin
  • Sores on the glans
  • Foul smell
  • Pain when urinating

Balanitis is most common in people who have an intact foreskin, but people who have been circumcised can also get balanitis.

Is balanitis sexually transmitted?

Balanitis is a symptom, not a condition. It can be caused by a sexually transmitted disease (STD) such as herpes, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. STDs aren’t the only reason you can have inflammation of your penis, though. The skin of the penis, particularly under the foreskin, is very sensitive. It can develop irritation for many reasons.

Common causes of balanitis include:

Inadequate hygiene is often the root cause of balanitis. The dark, moist environment under the foreskin is attractive to fungus and bacteria. Microorganisms can flourish there if the area isn’t cleaned thoroughly.

Children and teens who don’t take the time to carefully clean under their foreskin and around the glans are the most at risk for balanitis. A tight foreskin that is difficult to retract for cleaning can increase the risk of infection or irritation of the penis. Older adults and babies who rely on other people to clean them can also be at higher risk.

In rare cases, balanitis can be related to skin cancer. Skin cancer of the penis is not common, but it is serious. Your doctor will talk to you about your treatment options.

Will balanitis go away?

If you have swelling in the head of your penis, you should see a doctor about it. Most of the causes of balanitis require treatment. If you don’t get the treatment you need, the problem can get worse. You can end up with damage to your penis.

How is balanitis treated?

The treatment for balanitis depends on what is causing the irritation. Your doctor will examine your penis to look for injuries. They may gently scrape off some skin cells to send to a lab for analysis. 

Bacterial infection

Your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to clear up a bacterial infection. You might need an oral antibiotic or a cream that you apply directly to your penis.

Fungal infection

A yeast infection or other type of fungal infection will require an anti-fungal medication. There are oral treatments and creams or ointments that you can apply to the skin.

Allergic reaction

If you are reacting to a substance that touched your penis, you should stop using it as soon as possible. Your doctor may offer a steroid cream to bring down swelling and soothe any itching. Antihistamines might help reduce the severity of the reaction.

Underlying conditions

If the swelling is related to a condition such as an autoimmune disorder or type 2 diabetes, your doctor will treat the underlying health issue as well as giving you medicine to ease your symptoms.

Circumcision for balanitis

If you have multiple episodes of balanitis and your penis has a foreskin, your doctor might suggest circumcision. Removing the foreskin can reduce the chances of bacterial or fungal infections that lead to swelling and pain.

Your doctor will talk to you about your options for circumcision. It can be done with a local anesthetic to numb the area, but some people prefer sedation or general anesthesia. You will need to keep a dressing on your penis for several days after the procedure. You will need to avoid masturbation or sexual activity for four to six weeks afterward.

Preventing balanitis

Good hygiene can often reduce the chances of developing balanitis. You should wash your penis with warm water and mild soap. Some people find soaps with fragrances to be irritating, so avoid scented products. If you have foreskin, you can retract it and clean underneath. You can also retract it again to pat the area dry after washing.

If you have any underlying condition that leads to recurrent episodes of balanitis or if you require help bathing, talk to your doctor about how and your caregivers should care for your penis.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/29/2021
References
SOURCES:

Advanced Urology: "What is Balanitis and How Is It Treated?"

American Family Physician: "Adult Circumcision."

National Health Service: "Balanitis."