Balanitis is a type of skin inflammation that occurs over the head of the penis that commonly affects men. It is more common in those who have yet circumcised.

Although it is usually not a serious condition, it can cause discomfort in those who are affected.

Causes of Balanitis

  • Poor hygiene, leading to build-up of smegma
  • Foreskin irritation from pee
  • Foreskin irritation from soap, shower gels, other creams or medicaments
  • Thrush or yeast infection
  • Bacterial infection
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections
  • Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis
  • Children fiddling with their foreskin

Symptoms of Balanitis

  • Itchy, painful or odorous penis
  • Redness and swelling
  • Build-up of thick fluid
  • Pain on passing urine
  • Discharges from penis

What should I expect when I see my doctor?

Your doctor will ask you for further relevant history on your personal health and examine your genital area. Depending on the individual, your doctor may administer swab tests, urine tests for any abnormal rashes or discharges.

How is balanitis treated?

Most cases of balanitis are easily treated with a combination of good hygiene, creams, and ointments.

Good Hygiene

If you have balanitis, you should clean your penis every day with lukewarm water and gently dry it. Avoid using irritants such as soap, bubble bath or shampoo. Consider using a soap substitute such as an emollient.

For children,

  • Avoid pulling back their foreskin to clean under it if the foreskin still intact
  • Regular change of diapers to keep the penis dry and clean
  • Avoid baby wipes to clean a child’s penis as this can be an irritant to the skin

Creams and Ointments
Depending on the cause of balanitis, your doctor may prescribe

  • Steroid cream or ointment for irritated skin
  • Antifungal cream or oral medication for fungal or yeast infection
  • Antibiotics for bacterial infection

In cases of recurrent balanitis, circumcision (surgical removal of the foreskin) may be advisable.

When simple measures above are not useful, your doctor may refer you for specialist such as a urologist for further treatment.

What can I do to avoid balanitis?

  • Keep your penis clean
  • Avoid skin irritants and avoid use of strong soaps, instead use emollients as wash
  • Practice safe sex to avoid sexually transmitted infections
  • Don’t attempt to pull back a child’s foreskin to clean under it as this can hurt the area

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