What causes cracks on my foreskin?

Cracks in the foreskin may be due to drying soaps, body washes and other factors.

Cracks in the foreskin may be due to drying soaps, body washes, and other factors.

In most instances, cracked skin may just be triggered by pre-existing skin conditions of the foreskin. Dry skin and cracks on the foreskin are generally not a cause for concern and can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) and home treatments. Refrain from all sexual activity for proper healing. Cracks and dryness on the foreskin may be caused by the following

  • Clothing: Tight clothes and underwear can cause chafing and rubbing around the genital area, resulting in dryness. In uncircumcised men, tight underwear can lead to a buildup of moisture and fungus under the foreskin, resulting in dryness and infection. Opt for supportive cotton underwear and looser clothing in general or y-cuts briefs.
  • Dry body wash, soaps or shampoos: These harsh cleansers often have a drying effect on the penis. Wash the penis only with warm water and mild soaps, baby shampoo, or other products for sensitive skin. Rinse thoroughly after washing to remove any traces of the product. Just do not have sex or masturbate for a  few days. In the meantime, apply some good lotion so that the skin gets some moisture.
  • Dry sex: Prolonged sexual activity without proper lubrication can dry the skin of the penis, eventually leading to itching, flaking, and peeling. It is recommended to choose organic and paraben- or glycerin-free lubricants/oil to avoid irritation. Doctors usually recommend water-based lubricant if a patient has sensitive skin.
  • Allergies: Dryness accompanied by sneezing, wheezing, runny nose, and/or watery eyes is often due to an allergic reaction to personal deodorants or latex condoms with spermicides. A red, itchy rash and swollen penis may be from latex allergy. Symptoms usually appear 48 hours after coming in contact with an allergen. If a person is allergic to latex, they may switch to polyurethane or silicone condoms that are not treated with spermicide. They can also try applying specialized moisturizing penis creams after bathing or showering to lock in moisture and prevent dryness. Allergy symptoms should always be referred to a urologist without delay.
  • Yeast infection: Genital yeast infections are particularly common in uncircumcised men or those with poor genital hygiene. Other symptoms include white patches and peeling skin; a thick, uneven discharge under the foreskin; swelling or irritation around the penis head, and painful sex and urination. Apply an OTC antifungal cream to the head of the penis and under the foreskin (for uncircumcised men) for 10 days. Moreover, abstain from sex until the infection clears up because yeast infections are contagious.
  • Eczema: Dryness accompanied by intense itching, peeling skin, and fluid-filled blisters that may ooze and scab could be a sign of eczema. A definitive medical diagnosis is required before any treatment. Low-strength topical (applied over the skin) corticosteroids could be applied by carefully following instructions.
  • Psoriasis: This is a skin condition that may cause penile dryness. It is also accompanied by small, red, and shiny patches. Low-strength topical corticosteroids are usually prescribed as the treatment.
  • Balanitis: This is the swelling of the head (glans) of the penis. It's usually caused by poor hygiene or infection. Red spots, swelling, and itching are common symptoms. Balanitis can be resolved by practicing good hygiene. Consultation with a doctor is usually required in severe cases.
  • Other conditions may be due to a fungal or bacterial infection, and they are not always sexually transmitted. A patient might have had a small tear and then the wound became infected. Fungal or antibacterial creams or pills are usually recommended by a doctor after a thorough examination.

Persistent cracks on the foreskin depict severe changes in that part of the skin. The cracks heal with fibrosis, making the foreskin tight to slide back on the glans when retracted. Cracks may reappear because the tight foreskin stretches over the glans. Also, the vicious cycle continues. Some severe diseases may require a biopsy of the skin. Both of these may be dealt addressed by performing circumcision and subjecting the removed foreskin to pathological examination.

How do I prevent cracks on my foreskin?

Below are a few tips to prevent cracks and dryness on the foreskin

  • Urologists generally recommend a properly balanced diet to prevent dryness and cracks on the foreskin. Drink plenty of water daily. Include fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. Cereals, eggs, blueberries, bananas, onions, celery, ginger, lettuce, honey, and milk should be included in the diet. Blueberries and cereals help improve the blood circulation of the genital area, thus helping maintain an erection.
  • Massaging the body, especially the genital area, with herbal oils can keep penile skin healthy.
  • Don't use harsh soap or cleansers on sensitive areas.
  • Deep breathing exercises also help.
  • Diet modification by avoiding fried, junk, processed, canned, and denatured foods are recommended.
  • Patients with diabetes should maintain good glycemic control to prevent complications.

Is circumcision a bad idea?

is circumcision a bad idea
Before you make a decision about routine circumcision for your baby, learn about the potential pros and cons of the procedure

When it comes to routine circumcision, many people have conflicting opinions. 

For some parents, the decision is clear since it is based on cultural beliefs or religious practices. Moreover, children who are born with conditions such as phimosis (where the foreskin is too tight and cannot be pulled back) may need to be circumcised because of medical necessity.

However, other parents may feel that removing or changing what is natural isn’t necessary or recommended, and that any procedure that alters the appearance of the body must be made when the child is old enough to make that choice for himself. 

Before you make a decision, it’s important to understand what’s involved in the procedure, as well as the associated pros and cons.

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What is circumcision?

Circumcision removes the foreskin covering the head of the penis. Generally, the procedure is performed in the hospital within the first 10 days of birth and takes no longer than 10-15 minutes. During this procedure:

  • The baby is laid on the operating table.
  • Penis and foreskin are cleaned with an antiseptic solution.
  • Topical numbing medicine or injectable anesthetics are administered so the baby does not feel pain. Pain relief medication such as acetaminophen may also be given.
  • The foreskin is separated from the head of the penis and removed with a scalpel.
  • Antiseptic cream and gauze dressing are applied.

After the procedure, the doctor may advise taking special care of the operated site, such as clearing the area gently with warm water and patting it dry. Every time the baby’s diaper is changed, a new bandage with antiseptic ointment must be applied. 

Minor swelling or redness with some bleeding may occur in the first 1-2 days. If the baby’s swelling increases or experiences fever, rash, pus discharge, or inability to urinate within 12 hours of the procedure, parents must seek medical help.

What are the potential benefits of circumcision?

Circumcision may have several health benefits, including:

Contrary to a popular belief, circumcision does not affect (enhance or reduce) fertility or sexual pleasure.

What are the potential complications of circumcision?

Although circumcision is a minor surgical procedure, in rare cases it can cause complications such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Infections
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Hematoma (collection of blood in the tissues under the skin)
  • Injuries or scarring
  • Allergic reactions to anesthesia
  • Irritation
  • Urethritis (inflammation of the opening at the tip of the penis)

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the benefits of circumcision outweigh the potential risks associated with it. 

Nonetheless, due to the lack of enough scientific evidence, the AAP does not recommend circumcision as a routine procedure. Therefore, parents must make an informed decision in consultation with their doctor about whether they want their newborn son to undergo circumcision.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/2/2022
References
Medscape Medical Reference

International Journal of General Medicine