Sexual Supplement

How do in know if I have balanitis?

A common condition affecting both boys and men, balanitis (balanoposthitis) is swelling of the head of the penis, with the foreskin (the loose flap of skin that covers the head of the penis) also often being affected.

This is a common condition but it may need treatment

According to NHS Choices, one in ten men who attend a sexual health or genito-urinary (GUM) clinic have balanitis, while an estimated one in 20 boys under the age of five are affected by the condition.

The symptoms of balanitis can vary in severity and include red skin, swelling or irritation and soreness around the head of your penis (glans), a thick discharge under the foreskin, itchiness, an unpleasant smell and pain when passing urine.

In some cases the sufferer will also experience a tight foreskin that will not retract (pull back), which is known medically as phimosis and can be rather uncomfortable and make it harder to maintain good hygiene.

Although balanitis is not usually serious and in most cases can be prevented with good hygiene, it can be a sign of another condition, such as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or thrush (a type of fungal infection).

Therefore, if you experience any of the above symptoms, it is a good idea to visit your GP or local sexual health clinic to have yourself checked out and see if treatment is required.

In the majority of cases, balanitis can be treated simply and easily with a combination of creams or ointments, good hygiene and avoiding substances that irritate the penis.

However, in rare instances, balanitis can keep reoccurring and in these cases circumcision may be advised by your doctor. For example, you may be recommended this solution should you be unable to pull your foreskin back (phimosis) to be cleaned or if there is persistent dribbling of urine following urination.