What is Balanitis?

By  , Expert Content
Feb 15, 2012

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Balanitis is an inflammation or swelling of the glans penis (head of the penis). In many cases, the foreskin (the loose flap of skin that covers the head of the penis) is also affected.
It is a common condition, which can affect both boys and men. In children, it is more common in boys under four years and in men, it occurs more often to those who have not been circumcised.

Studies show that about 1 in 25 boys and about 1 in 30 uncircumcised men develop balanitis at some time in their life. It occurs rarely in men, who have been circumcised (had their foreskin surgically removed).

Balanitis most often occurs in uncircumcised men and those who have poor hygiene.
When the sensitive skin under the foreskin is not washed regularly, it lets sweat, debris, dead skin and bacteria to collect under the foreskin and cause irritation and inflammation. If the foreskin is tight, it may make it difficult to keep this area clean and lead to a collection of foul-smelling substance (smegma) under the foreskin and inflammation of glans penis.

Other causes of balanitis include:

  • Infection with candida and certain bacteria.
  • Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can occasionally cause balanitis.
  • Allergy and irritants.
  • Certain skin conditions such as psoriasis may cause a balanitis.

In boys, skin irritation is the most common cause of balanitis. Poor hygiene such as not getting rid of excess urine from the end of the penis after urinating or not cleaning the glans is the usual cause of skin irritation and balanitis.

Some factors that increase the risk of getting balanitis include:

  • Not being circumcised (this increases moisture and sweat under foreskin and allows microorganisms to thrive).
  • Poor hygiene (infrequent cleaning and/or failure to dry the glans after washing).
  • Frequent washing (specifically with standard alkaline soap or drying vigorously).
  • Diabetes mellitus (this increases the risk of infection with Candida albicans).
  • Sexual partner with vaginal thrush.
  • Sensitivity to chemicals e.g., lubricating jelly, medicated creams.
  • Minor trauma such as after sexual intercourse.
  • Obesity.

Symptoms that occur in balanitis include swelling, redness, soreness of the end of the penis and thick discharge beneath the foreskin. Balanitis is usually not a serious condition and can be cured with treatment. It can usually be prevented with good hygiene.



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