Overview Of Balanitis

Balanitis is the painful swelling of the head (glans) of the penis. If the foreskin (prepuce) is also affected, the condition is called balanoposthitis.

Causes And Risk Factors

The most common cause of balanitis is generally poor hygiene in uncircumcised men.

Other causes/ risk factors include:

  • Having reactive arthritis
  • Having sexually transmitted diseases
  • Sensitivity to certain soaps
  • Infection
  • Not properly rinsing soap off during bathing
  • Obesity
  • Middle-aged and older
  • Uncontrolled diabetes

Symptoms Of Balanitis

  • Foul-smelling discharge (smegma) from under foreskin
  • Painful penis and foreskin
  • Secondary rashes on the head of the penis
  • Painful urination
  • Redness of foreskin or penis
  • Reactive arthritis causes circinate balanitis. This form also results in small lesions, or sores, on the head of the penis.
  • The rarest type, pseudo-epitheliomatous keratotic, also causes scaly warts on the penis. This type generally afflicts men aged sixty and older.

Exams & Tests

A doctor exam may be sufficient to diagnose balanitis. Oftentimes, though, skin tests and/ or skin biopsies are necessary to determine exact cause. Consequently, your general practitioner is likely to refer you to a dermatologist for more specialised care.

Treatment Of Balanitis

Treatment is obviously based on the underlying cause of the balanitis- viral, fungal, or bacterial. Yeast infection (candidiasis) is the most common cause of balanitis. A doctor will prescribe anti-fungal creams. If the cause is viral, as by STD, then steroid creams and patience are necessary. The patient may need to use antibiotics if bacteria is the issue. In addition, education may be given to improve hygiene. 

If balanitis is left untreated, it may finally develop into lichen sclerosus et atrophicus. This results in a hardening of the head of the penis, and difficulty with both urinating and ejaculating. In uncircumcised males, prolonged inflammation causes scarring on the penis. A condition called phimosis, where the foreskin is unable to retract, may also occur. Medical professionals may recommend circumcision if it is not possible to pull the prepuce (foreskin) back to allow for proper washing. Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin from the glans (head) of the penis.