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Inflammation Affecting Head of the Penis and Foreskin


Updated May 13, 2014

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Balanitis is an inflammation that affects the head of the penis and/or the foreskin. It occurs primarily in uncircumcised men. Poor hygiene may lead to an accumulation of smegma that irritates the skin of the penile head, ultimately causing inflammation and swelling.

Most common in men over 40 years old, balanitis is a condition affecting about 11% of adult men and 3% of children. Balanitis is typically characterized by a shiny red or reddish orange area, but can also show up as a yellow patch with pinpoint spotting.

Signs and Symptoms of Balanitis
Occurring only in uncircumcised men, balanitis can cause the following symptoms:

  • Redness, swelling and tenderness of the penile head

  • Discharge from the penis

  • Impotence

  • Swelling

  • Difficulty with passing urine

  • Inability to retract the foreskin
  • Causes of Balanitis
    The causes of balanitis are not known for certain but include:

  • Poor hygiene in an uncircumcised male (the most common cause)
  • Diabetes (the most common underlying cause of balantis)
  • Friction
  • Response to infection. Various viruses and organisms can cause balanitis. These include HPV (human papilloma virus), strep, candida, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis
  • Chemical irritants
  • Allergic reactions to some medicines
  • Penile caner (a rare cause of balantis)

Complications of Balanitis

Though rare, the most common serious complication of balanitis is phimosis, an inability to retract the foreskin from the glans penis.

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Article Sources Include:
National Guideline Clearinghouse
Balanitis Web MD

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