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What Is Phimosis?

Phimosis is a condition in which the foreskin of the penis is so tight that it cannot be pulled back (retracted) to reveal the head of the penis.

What Causes Phimosis?

Phimosis, which is seen most often in children, may be present at birth. It also can be caused by an infection, or by scar tissue that formed as a result of injury or chronic inflammation. Another cause of phimosis is balanitis, which leads to scarring and tightness of the foreskin. Immediate medical attention is necessary if the condition makes urination difficult or impossible.

How Is Phimosis Treated?

Treatment of phimosis may include gentle, manual stretching of the foreskin over a period of time. Sometimes, the foreskin can be loosened with medication applied to the penis. Circumcision, the surgical removal of the foreskin, often is used to treat phimosis. Another surgical procedure, called preputioplasty, involves separating the foreskin from the glans (head of the penis). This procedure preserves the foreskin and is less traumatic than circumcision.

What Is Paraphimosis?

Paraphimosis occurs when the foreskin, once retracted, cannot return to its original location. It is a medical emergency that can cause serious complications if not treated.

What Causes Paraphimosis?

Paraphimosis may occur after an erection or sexual activity, or as the result of injury to the head of the penis. With paraphimosis, the foreskin becomes stuck behind the ridge of the head of the penis. If this condition is prolonged, it can cause pain and swelling, and impair blood flow to the penis. In extreme cases, the lack of blood flow can result in the death of tissue (gangrene), and amputation of the penis may be necessary.

How Is Paraphimosis Treated?

Treatment of paraphimosis focuses on reducing the swelling of the glans and foreskin. Applying ice may help reduce swelling, as may applying pressure to the glans to force out blood and fluid. If these measures fail to reduce swelling and allow the foreskin to return to its normal position, an injection of medication to help drain the penis may be necessary. In severe cases, a surgeon may make small cuts in the foreskin to release it. Circumcision also may be used as a treatment for paraphimosis.

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