What is balanitis?
If you have recurrent balanitis, your doctor may suggest circumcision as a treatment. Circumcision, which is the surgical removal of the foreskin, is a relatively simple procedure. It is effective at preventing future episodes of the swelling and inflammation associated with balanitis.
Balanitis is a painful inflammation of the head of the penis. It’s usually a symptom of some other problem, such as an infection or allergic reaction. Pain, swelling, and discoloration around the glans of the penis are the main signs. Balanitis is more common in people who have an intact foreskin.
Symptoms of balanitis include:
Causes of balanitis
Inadequate hygiene is often the reason for balanitis. The area under the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis can trap bacteria or fungi. These microorganisms begin to flourish there if the area isn’t cleaned thoroughly. That leads to skin irritation and pain.
Other causes of balanitis include:
- Sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea
- Irritation or allergic reactions to soaps, lotions, laundry detergents, or spermicides
- Skin conditions, such as psoriasis
- Reactive arthritis
- Complications from type 2 diabetes
- Side effects of some medications
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. Older adults, people with disabilities, and babies who rely on other people to clean them can also be at higher risk if their caregivers neglect proper hygiene.
In some cases, a tight foreskin that is difficult to retract complicates cleansing the penis. This is called phimosis, and it’s common in babies and toddlers. It can occur in older children and adults as well. Sometimes, it happens as a result of scarring or other damage to the foreskin and penis.
If you have balanitis, your doctor needs to figure out the cause so they can treat it. They will do a physical examination and ask questions about your health, sexual history, and possible allergies. Once they know what is causing the pain and swelling, they will prescribe appropriate medicine.
If medicine doesn’t clear the problem up, or if balanitis comes back repeatedly, your doctor might suggest circumcision. Removing the foreskin reduces the risk of dirt and microorganisms being trapped under the skin of the penis. This, in turn, reduces the risk of infection or irritation.
Circumcision for balanitis
Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin. It’s most commonly performed on infants for religious or cultural reasons. It can be done on older children or adults as well.
The procedure for circumcision is usually performed as outpatient surgery, so you can go home the same day. Discuss your options for anesthesia with your doctor. They can use local anesthesia so that you are awake for the circumcision, but you may prefer sedation or general anesthesia, so ask your doctor if that is an option for you.
The procedure itself is straightforward. Your doctor will remove the foreskin and use dissolvable stitches to close the wound. You’ll go home with compression bandages to keep the wound clean. Your doctor will tell you what medicines you can use for pain relief.
You will need to restrict activities for about ten days after the circumcision. You will need to care for your penis by keeping the incision site clean. Your doctor may suggest using petroleum jelly to protect the incision. You will need to refrain from sexual activity, including masturbation, for about six weeks.
The risks of circumcision include bleeding, infection of the incision, and a need for a repeat procedure to remove additional skin.
Circumcision is effective for preventing most future cases of balanitis, as, in general, balanitis is far less common in people who don’t have a foreskin. There are cases of balanitis after circumcision, however. You will need to continue to use good hygiene after the procedure. You should also avoid potential allergens and practice safe sex to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.
If you have questions about balanitis or circumcision, you can talk to your doctor. They will help you choose the right treatment.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Advanced Urology: "What is Balanitis and How Is It Treated?"
American Family Physician: "Adult Circumcision."
National Health Service: "Balanitis."
National Health Service: "Circumcision in men."
New Jersey Urology: "WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER ADULT CIRCUMCISION."