Balanitis: A Penis Condition Explained

Balanitis is an infection that can make you uncomfortable in one of the most sensitive areas -- the end of your penis and the loose flap of skin that covers the tip. It can be treated, and it’s often easy to prevent with some TLC.

You can get balanitis at any age. If you're circumcised, you’re not likely to get it. But if you still have your foreskin, you need to take extra care of the head of your penis.

Causes

If you don’t keep that area clean, you raise your chances of getting the infection. Use a mild soap, because harsh chemicals can irritate the skin on your penis and trigger balanitis, too.

It can also happen if your diabetes isn’t under control, or as a side effect of certain drugs prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes. For example, if you take dapagliflozin (Farxiga), you’re more likely to get balanitis, because the drug works by flushing sugar out of your body in the urine. Sugar creates a breeding place for yeast to grow.

Bacteria can also cause the infection. Make sure to keep your penis clean after you use to bathroom.

It can also be caused by a type of arthritis known as reactive arthritis or Reiter’s syndrome, which can also affect the joints and the eyes.

Some medications can cause allergic reactions that can lead to balanitis, too, including tetracycline and aspirin-type medicines.

You’re also more likely to get the infection if you're overweight or have a condition that makes your body retain water, such as heart, liver, or kidney disease.

Symptoms

You might have redness, swelling, pain, itching, or discharge in the tip of your penis. Skin folds can trap dead cells, discharge, and oils. If you don’t wash regularly, this debris can build up and form smegma, which smells bad.

If it gets worse, it can start to hurt when you pee or cause problems with your sex life. You might not be able to get an erection.

Diagnosis

In most cases, your doctor can diagnose balanitis based on the symptoms you describe to him. He may run these tests to be sure, such as:

Continued

Treatment

Once you have the condition, you can’t just wash it away. Your doctor will prescribe or recommend treatment to clear up the infection.

Your treatment will depend on what set off the balanitis. The prescription usually comes as a cream or ointment. Your doctor might prescribe:

  • Antibiotics for bacterial balanitis. It comes as a pill or a cream.
  • Antifungal cream if the condition was from candida yeast.
  • Steroid creams can relieve balanitis caused by skin disease.

It you don't get it treated, you might have complications such as:

  • Narrowing of the opening through which urine leaves the body called urethral strictures
  • Urinary retention
  • A backflow of urine toward the kidneys known as vesicoureteral reflux

If it gets worse, there’s a chance you might need to be circumcised to treat it.

 

How to Prevent It

Make the extra effort to keep your private parts clean. Gently pull back and clean under your foreskin with warm water. Use a mild soap. Dry the area completely. Make this part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on October 29, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

American Urological Association: “Plasma Cell Balanitis (Zoon's Balanitis),” “Buried penis in adults - Presentation, Surgical Techniques and Outcome.”

Medscape: “Balanitis.”

Johnsson, K., Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications, 2013.

Lisboa, C. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2009.

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: “Balanitis.”

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