Balanitis In Adults

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Balanitis is swelling and irritation of the head of the penis (glans penis). Balanitis occurs most often among males who have not had their foreskin removed (uncircumcised). In uncircumcised males, the condition may also cause inflammation of the skin around the foreskin.

Balanitis sometimes causes scarring of the penis or foreskin, which can require surgery. This condition may develop because of an infection or another medical condition. Untreated balanitis can increase the risk of penile cancer.

What are the causes?

Common causes of this condition include:

  • Poor personal hygiene, especially in uncircumcised males. Not cleaning the glans penis and foreskin well can result in a buildup of bacteria, viruses, and yeast, which can lead to infection and inflammation.

  • Irritation and lack of air flow due to fluid (smegma) that can build up on the glans penis.

Other causes include:

  • Chemical irritation from products such as soaps or shower gels, especially those that have fragrance. Chemical irritation can also be caused by condoms, personal lubricants, petroleum jelly, spermicides, or fabric softeners.

  • Skin conditions, such as eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis.

  • Allergies to medicines, such as tetracycline and sulfa drugs.

What increases the risk?

The following factors may make you more likely to develop this condition:

  • Being an uncircumcised male.

  • Having diabetes.

  • Having other medical conditions, including liver cirrhosis, congestive heart failure, or kidney disease.

  • Having infections, such as candidiasis, HPV (human papillomavirus), herpes simplex, gonorrhea, or syphilis.

  • Having a tight foreskin that is difficult to pull back (retract) past the glans penis.

  • Being severely obese.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Discharge from under the foreskin, and pain or difficulty retracting the foreskin.

  • A bad smell or itchiness on the penis.

  • Tenderness, redness, and swelling of the glans penis.

  • A rash or sores on the glans penis or foreskin.

  • Inability to get an erection due to pain.

  • Difficulty urinating.

  • Scarring of the penis or foreskin, in some cases.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed based on a physical exam and tests of a swab of discharge to check for bacterial or fungal infection.

You may also have blood tests to check for:

  • Viruses that can cause balanitis.

  • A high blood sugar (glucose) level. This could be a sign of diabetes, which can increase the risk of balanitis.

How is this treated?

Treatment for balanitis depends on the cause. Treatment may include:

  • Improving personal hygiene. Your health care provider may recommend sitting in a bath of warm water that is deep enough to cover your hips and buttocks (sitz bath).

  • Taking medicines such as:

    • Creams or ointments to reduce swelling (steroids) or to treat an infection.

    • Antibiotic medicine.

    • Antifungal medicine.

  • Having surgery to remove or cut the foreskin (circumcision). This may be done if you have scarring on the foreskin that makes it difficult to retract.

  • Controlling other medical problems that may be causing your condition or making it worse.

Follow these instructions at home:

Medicines

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.

  • If you were prescribed an antibiotic medicine or a cream or ointment, use it as told by your health care provider. Do not stop using your medicine, cream, or ointment even if you start to feel better.

General instructions

  • Do not have sex until the condition clears up, or until your health care provider approves.

  • Keep your penis clean and dry. Take sitz baths as recommended by your health care provider.

  • Avoid products that irritate your skin or make symptoms worse, such as soaps and shower gels that have fragrance.

  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your symptoms get worse or do not improve with home care.

  • You develop chills or a fever.

  • You have trouble urinating.

  • You cannot retract your foreskin.

Get help right away if:

  • You develop severe pain.

  • You are unable to urinate.

Summary

  • Balanitis is inflammation of the head of the penis (glans penis) caused by irritation or infection. This condition is most common among uncircumcised males.

  • Balanitis causes pain, redness, and swelling of the glans penis.

  • Good personal hygiene is important.

  • Treatment may include improving personal hygiene and applying creams or ointments.

  • Contact a health care provider if your symptoms get worse or do not improve with home care.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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