Balanitis

WHAT IS IT?

Balanitis is an inflammation of the head of the penis (the glans), caused by an infection.  The foreskin (the loose flap of skin covering the head of the penis) is often affected as well.  Balanitis is common, and it can occur at any age.  It happens a little more often in men who have not been circumcised.  It can usually be prevented with good hygiene and isn't normally serious.

HOW WOULD I GET IT?

Balanitis is typically caused by an imbalance of the bacteria that naturally live on the skin. Bacteria grow very quickly in warm, moist conditions. In men who are not circumcised (i.e. have not had their foreskin removed), the foreskin covering the head of the penis can be an ideal environment for bacteria to multiply in. Bacteria are more likely to grow and cause inflammation if the penis is not dried carefully after washing, which leaves moisture on the foreskin. This can happen if you haven’t washed for a couple of days.

Here are some other circumstances that can make an infection more likely to develop:

  • Existing inflammation of the penis caused by an allergy
  • Diabetes – men with diabetes are more likely to develop infections, especially if the diabetes is not well controlled.
  • Having sex (vaginal, oral, anal) with a partner who has a yeast infection
  • Taking antibiotics
  • Irritation from things like perfumed soaps, chemicals (e.g. latex, spermicide, lubricants), and laundry detergents
  • Having certain sexually transmitted infections
  • Having phimosis (a condition in which the foreskin cannot be pulled back fully over the glans.)
HOW WOULD I KNOW I HAD IT?

Common symptoms of balanitis include changes to the head of the penis, such as redness, swelling, and/or a burning sensation. A doctor can usually diagnose it through a physical examination.

HOW IT IS TREATED?

Treatment for balanitis varies depending on its cause. Pain and swelling may be soothed by using a salt bath. If the balanitis is due to a yeast infection, it may be treated using an antifungal medication. If it is caused by a bacterial infection, it may be treated using antibiotics. If it is caused by an allergy or sensitivity, it may be treated with a steroid cream. It is recommended that you visit a doctor to discuss the best treatment option for you.