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Can Balanitis Cure Itself?

Reviewed on 4/20/2020

What Is Balanitis?

Balanitis is the inflammation of the head of the penis, usually due to infection.
Balanitis is the inflammation of the head of the penis, usually due to infection.

Balanitis is a common condition that causes inflammation of the head of the penis, called the glans. When the head of the penis and foreskin are inflamed, it is referred to as balanoposthitis. Balanitis affects 3-11% of males and is one of the most common reasons men and boys need to see a urologist.

What Are Symptoms of Balanitis?

Symptoms of balanitis and balanoposthitis include: 

  • Discharge from the penis 
  • Pain, tenderness, redness on the head of the penis (glans)
  • Difficulty retracting the foreskin
  • White or yellow buildup under the foreskin (smegma)
  • Impotence (difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, also called erectile dysfunction)
  • Pain with erection
  • Burning or pain on urination (dysuria)
  • Itching
  • Fever (uncommon)
  • Difficulty urinating or inability to urinate (in very severe cases)

What Causes Balanitis?

Risk factors for developing balanitis and balanoposthitis include: 

Certain infections, including some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), can cause balanitis and balanoposthitis, including: 

There are some other conditions that may lead to types of balanitis, such as:

  • Lichen sclerosus
  • Zoon balanitis 
  • Reiter disease 

How Is Balanitis Diagnosed?

A doctor will perform a physical exam to look for balanitis and balanoposthitis, including: 

  • Redness and swelling of the head of the penis (glans) and foreskin
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Skin ulceration or open sores on the head of the penis
  • Swelling, redness, or discharge from the urethra 
  • Swollen lymph glands in the groin 
  • White or yellow buildup under the foreskin (smegma)

Lab tests that may be ordered to help diagnose the cause of balanitis or balanoposthitis include:

What Is the Treatment for Balanitis?

Treatment for balanitis and balanoposthitis depends on the underlying cause, however, it starts with cleaning the head of the penis (glans) and foreskin. 

Once the cause of balanitis or balanoposthitis is diagnosed, self-care at home may be all that is needed to treat the condition. Patient education on improving personal hygiene is important. To properly clean the head of the penis and foreskin retract the foreskin and gently clean with soap and warm water.

If there is an infection or inflammatory cause of balanitis and balanoposthitis, treatments may include:

  • Antifungal creams or ointments applied topically
  • Topical steroids
  • Antibiotic creams such as bacitracin 
  • If there is evidence of infection to the skin (cellulitis), oral antibiotics such as cephalosporins may be prescribed

If the balanitis or balanoposthitis is severe and is causing urinary obstruction, this is a medical emergency that may require local incisions to the foreskin and possibly corrective surgery. A urologist may need to be consulted in severe cases.

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What Are Complications of Balanitis?

Complications of balanitis or balanoposthitis may include:

  • Chronic pain of the head of the penis (glans)
  • Lesions on the glans or foreskin 
  • Infection
  • Urinary retention or blockage of the bladder
  • Urethral narrowing (stricture)
  • Sexual dysfunction 
  • Phimosis (foreskin is unable to retract)
  • Paraphimosis (foreskin is trapped behind the head of the penis – this is a medical emergency)

How Do You Prevent Balanitis?

The important steps in prevention of balanitis or balanoposthitis include:

  • Maintaining good personal hygiene
  • Controlling diabetes
  • Managing other chronic medical disorders
  • Weight loss for obese patients

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Reviewed on 4/20/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference
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