Balanitis is an inflammation of the end of the penis(glans). Often the foreskin is also inflamed at the same time as the glans. Balanitis is common, and it can occur at any age. It more commonly affects boys under four years and also men who have not been circumcised. It is very uncommon in men who have been circumcised.

What are the symptoms of Balanitis?

The most common symptoms include redness, irritation and soreness of the end of the penis. It can range from a small patch of redness confined to part of the skin surface of the glans, to the whole glans becoming red, swollen and painful. It may be impossible to pull the foreskin back. You may also have pain or discomfort when passing urine.

What can cause balanitis?

Poor hygiene

Poor hygiene around this area, combined with a tight foreskin, can lead to irritation by smegma. Smegma is a white cheesy substance which forms under the foreskin if the glans under the foreskin is not cleaned. This is the most common cause of balanitis.

Infection - not sexually transmitted

  • A common cause of infection is with yeast called candida. Candida is the same germ that causes vaginal thrush in women.
  • An infection of the glans is more likely to develop if you:
  • Already have some inflammation of the penis due to an allergy or irritant.
  • Have diabetes. In particular, if your diabetes is not well-controlled and the urine contains sugar.
  • Have a phimosis, a condition where the foreskin does not retract (pull back) over the glans. Infection - sexually transmitted

Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can occasionally cause balanitis. Various STIs can cause a urethritis and a balanitis. For example, genital herpes, chlamydia, and gonorrhoea.

Allergy and irritants

The skin of the glans is sensitive. It may 'react' and become inflamed if it comes in contact with various chemicals or other substances.

  • Certain soaps and disinfectants that you may use to clean the penis.
  • Over-washing or scrubbing may also irritate the delicate skin of the glans.
  • Condoms, spermicides, the lubricant in condoms, and lubricants used when having sex can all irritate the glans.
  • Chemicals spilt on your hands may be transferred to the penis.
  • Some washing powders or fabric conditioners.

Skin conditions

Psoriasis and some uncommon skin conditions can affect the penis.

How is the cause of the Balanitis diagnosed?

A doctor can easily diagnose Balanitis by the red and inflamed look of the end of the penis and is able to diagnose the cause and advice on treatment straight away.
If your doctor is not sure about the cause, or the Balanitis does not clear with treatment, your doctor may suggest one or more or the following.

  • A swab to look for certain bacteria that can cause infection.
  • A test to check for diabetes if this is suspected.
  • Referral to a skin specialist if a skin condition or allergy is thought to be the cause.
  • Allergy testing may be advised if an allergy is suspected.
  • Rarely, if the inflammation persists, a biopsy (small sample) of inflamed skin may be taken

What is the treatment for Balanitis?

  • Avoid soaps when inflammation is present. You can use an emollient (moisturizer cream or ointment) to clean instead of soap.
  • Use luke warm water to clean your penis and then dry gently.
  • An anti-yeast cream or a course of anti-yeast tablets are a common treatment if the Balanitis is caused by Candida.
  • Antibiotics will clear infection caused by bacteria (including certain sexually transmitted infections).
  • A mild steroid cream to reduce inflammation is useful for Balanitis caused by allergies or irritants.
  • If you have recurring Balanitis and have a phimosis, then an option is to be circumcised to remove the foreskin.

How can Balanitis be prevented?

  • Wash the glans each day.
  • Make sure the penis and glans are dry before you put on underpants.
  • If symptoms are related to condom use, try using a condom which is designed for sensitive skin.
  • Wash your hands before going to the toilet if you work with chemicals.
  • Use a condom each and every time you have sex with a new sexual partner

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