What Is Balanitis?

Understanding Balanitis

Balanitis is swelling of the foreskin of the penis. It is an inflammation caused by infections or chronic skin conditions. Balanitis mostly affects uncircumcised men. It can be a very painful condition, but it isn’t serious and can be relieved by applying topical medication.

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Causes of balanitis

Balanitis can be caused by lack of proper personal hygiene which causes an overgrowth of either bacteria or yeast. The foreskin of the penis is a perfect place for these organisms to thrive because it can trap moisture around the head of the penis.

Also, balanitis can occur due to injuries on the tip of the penis, which can cause pain and swelling.

Irritation in the area can also cause balanitis. Irritation can be caused by:

  • Improper rinsing of soap completely from your penis after bathing
  • using bar soap that leaves the skin dry
  • using scented soaps to clean your penis
  • spraying scented lotions on your penis

Also, balanitis can occur as a side effect of taking some laxatives, sleeping pills, painkillers, and antibiotics. This is called a fixed drug eruption.

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Other causes of balanitis include:

Symptoms of balanitis

Balanitis symptoms may include:

  • swelling and redness of foreskin
  • itchy genitals
  • tightened foreskin
  • discharge
  • painful skin on the penis
  • pain in the genital area
  • painful urination as a result of swelling mounting pressure on your urethra

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Diagnosing balanitis

Most of balanitis symptoms are evident, making it easy to diagnose during a physical examination. Your doctor may take a sample of the discharge (if any) with a cotton swab or collect a urine sample to confirm diagnosis. They will check it for the presence of bacterial or fungal cells. This helps determine the cause of the balanitis.

Your doctor may perform a biopsy if the cause of balanitis is a chronic skin condition. For a biopsy, your doctor removes a small piece of tissue from the penis in order to examine it for disease.


Even after treatment, the foreskins of some men do not retract. This condition is known as phimosis. Phimosis is caused by chronic balanitis.

Untreated phimosis may require surgery which would involve cutting a slit along the top of the foreskin to separate it from the penis. In some cases, circumcision may be performed, which involves removing the foreskin completely.


Your doctor will advise you to use only warm water for cleansing and stop the use of all perfumed soaps, lotions, or powders, to avoid irritating the foreskin.


Anti-itch cream may be prescribed to stop itching and inflammation. An antifungal or antibiotic medication would be prescribed to help treat an infection. Your doctor may also prescribe medicated creams with steroids to reduce inflammation.

If symptoms persist after two weeks, consult your doctor.

Complications of balanitis

If left untreated for long, complications may occur such as:

  • painful foreskin retraction
  • scarring in the penis opening
  • insufficient blood supply to the penis

How to prevent balanitis

Balanitis can be prevented by:

  • Taking a bath or washing your penis properly after sexual intercourse
  • Dying the penis properly after a bath
  • Avoiding the use of perfumed products on your penis


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