Balanitis is swelling of the foreskin, or head of the penis. Balanitis affects roughly 1 in 20 males.
Balanitis largely occurs in uncircumcised men. It can be painful, but it typically isn’t serious. It often can be relieved by using topical medication.
What causes balanitis to develop?
Balanitis is inflammation typically caused by infections or chronic skin conditions. Improper hygiene can contribute to skin irritation. Both inadequate cleansing and too much cleansing can add to this problem. The condition is often caused by an overgrowth of either bacteria or yeast. The foreskin of the penis is an ideal place for these organisms to grow because it can trap moisture around the penis head.
Injuries on the tip of the penis or foreskin can cause swelling and discomfort.
Irritation in the area can also cause balanitis. Irritation can be caused by:
- not rinsing soap completely off of your penis after showering
- using scented soaps to clean your penis
- using bar soap that dries out the skin
- using scented lotions or sprays on your penis
- Some laxatives, sleeping pills, painkillers, and antibiotics can cause balanitis as a side effect. This is
called a fixed drug eruption.
Other causes of balanitis include:
- reactive arthritis
- uncontrolled diabetes
- sexually transmitted infections like syphilis, trichomonas, and gonorrhea
Symptoms of balanitis
Swelling and redness of the foreskin may indicate balanitis. Other symptoms may include:
- tightened foreskin
- itchy genitals
- pain in the genital area
- painful skin on the penis
- Swelling of your penis tip can put pressure on your urethra. This can cause painful urination.
Balanitis can usually be diagnosed during a physical examination because most of its symptoms are visible. If you have discharge, your doctor may take a sample of it with a cotton swab or collect a urine sample. They will check it for the presence of bacterial or fungal cells. This helps determine the cause of the balanitis.
When the cause of balanitis is a chronic skin condition, your doctor may perform a biopsy. For a biopsy, your doctor removes a small piece of tissue from the penis in order to examine it for disease. You’ll be given local anesthesia before the doctor collects the sample.
Discontinue the use of all perfumed soaps, lotions, or powders, as they are often are a cause of foreskin irritation. Use only warm water for cleansing.
- After a diagnosis, your doctor will likely prescribe a medicated anti-itch cream. This cream helps stop itching and inflammation.
- If you have an infection, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or antifungal medication to help clear it. This may be all you need to stop the inflammation, swelling, itching, and discharge.
- Your doctor may also prescribe medicated creams with steroids to reduce inflammation.
- You can try treating balanitis yourself with a mixture of diluted vinegar and Burow’s solution applied to the area with a compress. This mixture acts as an astringent. Astringents cause the skin to contract, which helps relieve irritation.
- Your balanitis may be caused by a fungus (a type of yeast infection). In this case, you can use an antifungal cream that contains nystatin, clotrimazole, or terbinafine.
- Topical steroids that contain hydrocortisone can also be helpful.
- If you’re trying over-the-counter treatments, do not use them longer than two weeks. If you are not improving, see your doctor for evaluation. It’s important to make sure you do not have a more serious health problem.
How to prevent balanitis
Preventing balanitis is as easy as practicing proper hygiene. Shower every day, especially after you sweat or engage in sexual intercourse. You can also prevent balanitis by:
- avoiding the use of perfumed or deodorizing products on your penis
- completely drying the penis after you shower