Published on Mar 05, 2019 and last reviewed on Jun 16, 2020 - 5 min read
Is the tip of your penis red and swollen? It can be a type of balanitis. This article will help you understand the causes and treatment needed.
Swelling or inflammation of the glans penis is called balanitis. And inflammation of the prepuce (foreskin) alone is called posthitis. As the swelling of both the glans penis and foreskin occur together, it is called balanoposthitis.
It is a very common condition that affects 1 in every 25 boys, especially those under 4 years of age. It is painful and is commonly seen in uncircumcised men. It can be seen even in circumcised men with minimum symptoms. It is treatable and is caused due to poor hygiene and tight foreskin.
The three types of balanitis are:
Zoon’s Balanitis - It is commonly seen in middle-aged uncircumcised individuals, and causes localized lesions on the glans and foreskin.
Circinate Balanitis - It is the most common skin condition seen in reactive arthritis. The skin of the penis becomes inflamed and scaly.
Pseudoepitheliomatous Keratotic and Micaceous Balanitis - It mostly affects elder uncircumcised men, and presents as a hyperkeratotic plaque with a thick micaceous scale on the glans penis.
The factors that contribute to or cause balanitis are:
Leaving unwashed soap on the penis.
Using a soap that is scented or dries the skin on the penis.
Scratching and rubbing.
Chlamydia - a sexually transmitted bacterial infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium .
Herpes - a common sexually transmitted viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV).
Human papillomavirus (HPV) - it is a type of viral infection that can be passed sexually or through skin contact.
Gonorrhea - a sexually transmitted infection by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
Chancroid - is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi.
Syphilis - the infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum.
Eczema - a condition that results in dry, red, itchy, and inflamed patches of skin.
Balanitis xerotica obliterans - a chronic inflammatory condition that affects male or female genitalia.
Psoriasis - an autoimmune condition where dead cells get accumulated on the skin surface due to increased cell turnover rate.
Reactive arthritis - a type of arthritis that develops in response to infection in some other part of the body.
Phimosis - the inability to retract the foreskin.
Exposure to chemicals - latex condoms and lubricants.
Middle-aged or older men.
Pre-existing sexually or non-sexually transmitted infection.
Individuals with uncontrolled blood sugar levels.
The common signs and symptoms include:
Pain, tenderness, and irritation on the penis head and foreskin.
The skin becomes discolored.
Glans penis looks tight and shiny.
Sometimes, the foreskin looks very dry.
Pain while urinating.
The glands near the penis get swollen.
Phimosis (tight foreskin).
Balanitis is usually diagnosed by clinical examination. If the doctor notices redness and inflammation of the penis, they will think of all the possible irritants. After advising to prevent potential irritants, the doctor might also educate you about practicing good hygiene, safe sex, and about latex condoms.
The doctor might also rule out other health conditions that might cause balanitis.
If the condition is not resolved even after following the above methods, your doctor might suggest you get the following tests done:
Blood test - To check blood sugar levels and rule out diabetes.
Tests to identify any sexually transmitted disease.
Swab test - Any penile discharge is collected using a swab from the glans to check for infection.
Biopsy - Rarely, a sample from the lesion or inflamed skin is taken and tested.
Balanitis treatment depends on the underlying cause. The treatment options include:
Antifungal creams - If the cause is yeast or fungal infection, then the doctor will prescribe an antifungal cream (Clotrimazole), which needs to be applied to the glans and foreskin.
Antibiotics - If the doctor diagnoses the cause as a bacterial infection, then you will be prescribed antibiotics.
Antidiabetic medication - If your blood glucose levels are high, the doctor will prescribe oral antidiabetic medicines or Insulin injections.
Proper Hygiene: The doctor will ask you to wash and dry under your foreskin properly to reduce recurrence.
Circumcision: The doctor might suggest getting a circumcision done if you have recurrent episodes of balanitis. Here, the entire foreskin is removed surgically.
It is essential to get proper treatment for balanitis as early as possible. If left untreated, it can cause:
Pain while retracting the foreskin.
The blood supply to the penis might get reduced.
Scars in the penis opening.
Long-standing balanitis might also cause phimosis (inability to retract the foreskin).
Phimosis and Balanitis:
Phimosis is when a man’s foreskin does not retract even after treatment for balanitis. It does not result from acute balanitis but is a complication of chronic or long-standing balanitis. Sometimes, untreated phimosis might require surgery where the surgeon cuts a slit along the top of the foreskin in order to separate it from the penis. In rare cases, circumcision, that is, the complete removal of the foreskin might also be needed. The earlier balanitis is treated, the better the prognosis will be.
Some hygiene tips are as follows:
Avoid using scented soaps and lotions.
Always clean the glans penis after retracting the foreskin.
The area should be washed with warm water.
If needed, a neutral soap-free cleanser can be used.
The soap should be thoroughly washed and rinsed off.
The area should be completely dry after cleaning.
Always wash your private areas after sexual intercourse.
As soon as you notice any abnormality or changes in your penis, consult your doctor immediately. If treated early, balanitis does not cause permanent damage or complication. Your doctor will suggest the best treatment option for your condition. Self-medication is never good, as it might worsen the situation.
Depending on the type of balanitis, anti-itch cream, steroid ointment, and antifungal or antibiotic cream are used. Along with medicines, proper penile hygiene has to be maintained.
Circinate balanitis or balanitis circinata is a common type of dermatitis seen in people suffering from reactive arthritis. It results in ring-shaped lesions on the glans penis.
Balanitis xerotica obliterans is a skin disease that results in whitish lesions on the penis. If this affects any other part of the body, it is called lichen sclerosus (LS). It causes itching, redness, and pain during sex.
Zoon’s balanitis is a type of inflammation of the glans penis, which is commonly seen in middle-aged men, which results in a single well-defined erythematous lesion. It is not a sexually transmitted disease.
Some home remedies are as follows:
- Do not use scented and harsh soaps.
- Properly clean the head of the penis after retracting your foreskin.
- Use warm water to wash your genitals.
- Dry the area properly after washing.
Some types of balanitis that result from fungal or bacterial infection can be transmitted sexually.
Balanitis can be treated by maintaining good genital hygiene and by applying prescribed creams or lotions properly.
If the doctor suspects the cause to be bacterial, then he or she might prescribe antibiotics. The commonly prescribed antibiotics are Amoxicillin, Erythromycin, and Clarithromycin.
Some types of balanitis might be difficult to cure if they are resistant to treatment. Consult a doctor if you have recurrent episodes of balanitis.
Balanitis can be either fungal or bacterial.
Your doctor can diagnose the condition by looking at the lesions. But to confirm and to know the type of balanitis, your doctor can ask you for a swab test, urine test, blood test, or a biopsy.
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