Balanitis

Balanitis is inflammation of the head of the penis (glans).

CAUSES

Balanitis has multiple causes, both infectious and noninfectious. Frequently balanitis is the result of poor personal hygiene, especially in uncircumcised males. Without adequate washing, viruses, bacteria, and yeast collect between the foreskin and the glans. This can cause an infection. Lack of air and irritation from a normal secretion called smegma contribute to the cause in uncircumcised males. Other causes include:

  • Chemical irritation from the use of certain soaps and shower gels (especially soaps with perfumes), condoms, personal lubricants, petroleum jelly, spermicides, and fabric conditioners.

  • Skin conditions, such as eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis.

  • Allergies to drugs, such as tetracycline and sulfa.

  • Certain medical conditions, including liver cirrhosis, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease.

  • Morbid obesity.

RISK FACTORS

  • Diabetes mellitus.

  • Phimosis—A tight foreskin that is difficult to pull back past the glans.

  • Sex without the use of a condom.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Symptoms may include:

  • Discharge coming from under the foreskin.

  • Tenderness.

  • Itching and inability to get an erection (because of the pain).

  • Redness and a rash.

  • Sores on the glans and on the foreskin.

DIAGNOSIS

Diagnosis of balanitis is confirmed through a physical exam.

TREATMENT

The treatment is based on the cause of the balanitis. Treatment may include frequent cleansing, keeping the glans and foreskin dry, use of medicines such as creams, pain medicines, antibiotics, or medicines to treat fungal infections. Sitz baths may be used. If the irritation has caused a scar on the foreskin that prevents easy retraction, a circumcision may be recommended.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Sex should be avoided until the condition has cleared.