What Is Balanitis?
Balanitis is a term used to include all inflammation of the skin covering the head (glans) of the penis.
What Are the Symptoms of Balanitis?
Symptoms include redness or swelling, itching, rash, pain, and a foul-smelling discharge.
What Causes Balanitis?
Balanitis most often occurs in men and boys who have not been circumcised (had their foreskin surgically removed), and who have poor hygiene. Inflammation can occur if the sensitive skin under the foreskin is not washed regularly, allowing sweat, debris, dead skin and bacteria to collect under the foreskin and cause irritation. The presence of tight foreskin (phimosis) may make it difficult to keep this area clean and can lead to irritation by a foul-smelling substance (smegma) that can accumulate under the foreskin.
Other Causes of Balanitis May Include:
- Dermatitis/allergy – Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin, often caused by an irritating substance or a contact allergy. Sensitivity to chemicals in certain products – such as soaps, detergents, perfumes, and spermicides can cause an allergic reaction, including irritation, itching and a rash.
- Infection – Infection with the yeast Candida albicans (thrush) can result in an itchy, spotty rash. Certain sexually transmitted diseases – including gonorrhea, herpes, and syphilis – can produce symptoms of balanitis.
In addition, men with diabetes are at greater risk for balanitis. Glucose (sugar) in the urine that is trapped under the foreskin serves as a breeding ground for bacteria.
Persistent inflammation of the penis head and foreskin can result in scarring, which can cause a tightening of the foreskin (phimosis) and a narrowing of the urethra (the tube that drains urine from the bladder). Inflammation also can lead to swelling of the foreskin, which can cause injury to the penis.
How Is Balanitis Treated?
Treatment depends on the underlying cause. If there is an infection, treatment will include an appropriate antibiotic or antifungal medication. In cases of severe or persistent inflammation, a circumcision may be recommended.
Taking appropriate hygiene measures can help prevent future bouts of balanitis. In addition, it is important to avoid strong soaps or chemicals, especially those known to cause a skin reaction.