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Foreskin Problems

Facts on Foreskin Problems

Two conditions can occur with the foreskin of the penis of an uncircumcised or improperly circumcised boy or man, 1) phimosis and 2) paraphimosis

  1. Phimosis: This condition occurs when the foreskin cannot be retracted (pulled back) behind the head (glans) of the penis. This is called phimosis. It is usually a condition found in children and occasionally adults. Physiological phimosis is the normal condition that occurs mainly during the first year of life when the foreskin is not retractable in these young males. This may occur until about 3 years of age. This condition is not a congenital problem such as buried penis (the penis is located beneath the abdominal skin). Phimosis can often lead to a painful type of infection called balanitis.
  2. Paraphimosis: This condition, paraphimosis, is somewhat the opposite of phimosis. The foreskin, after being pulled back, becomes trapped and then swollen behind the head (glans) of the penis.
    • The swelling can lead to blockage of blood flow to the penis, which can lead to gangrene of the penile shaft and head distal to the welling.
    • Paraphiosis is considered a true medical emergency. Circumcision (surgical removal of the foreskin) at birth or revision of a prior circumcision can prevent this condition.

Foreskin Problems Causes

Causes for phimosis include infection, poor hygiene, and previous foreskin injury.

Any condition or activity that results in prolonged foreskin retraction can lead to development of paraphimosis.

  • An improperly circumcised penis
  • Frequent insertion of bladder catheters
  • Vigorous sexual activity, including masturbation
  • Males forgetting to return the foreskin to its normal position after retracting it (for example, an elderly patient who needs self-catheterization)

Foreskin Problems Symptoms

The following is a list of symptoms that males may have if they develop problems with the foreskin that usually appears swollen.

With phimosis, the male child may have any or all of the following signs and symptoms:

With paraphimosis, males can have these additional symptoms:

  • Penile pain (particularly in the glans)
  • Penile discoloration (this occurs after blood flow is cut off); penis may become whitish, bluish, gray colored, or black
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/19/2016

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