Balanitis is a skin condition that affects men almost exclusively, wherein the tip of the penis or the foreskin over the head of the penis becomes infected or inflamed. Balanitis happens to about one in 20 males and occurs most often in uncircumsized men and boys under the age of 5. Though the condition rarely affects women, in such cases, balanitis refers to an infection of the clitoris. There are many symptoms of balanitis.
Phimosis is the inability of an uncircumcized male, usually a prepubescent boy, to pull the foreskin back from the glans, or tip, of his penis. Most adolescent boys should be able to do this by the time they reach ten years. Otherwise, phimosis is a common diagnosis and might be a sign of balanitis. Phimosis will usually resolve naturally, but if it doesn't, a doctor will pierce several small holes or make a small cut in the foreskin so that it can be worked loose and pulled back. In difficult cases, circumcision may be necessary.
Balanitis can begin with an allergic reaction on the penis. Often, these allergies are the result of soaps or other scented products, or laundry detergent to which the subject is sensitive. Allergies can be treated with antihistamines or topical allergy treatments.
Swelling of the glans refers to any excess blood under the skin of the head of the penis that is not due to sexual arousal. This can be a painful symptom of balanitis and anti-inflammatory medications can often relieve the issue.
Balanitis can be a result of a fungal infection, often when there is an excess of candida fungus in the head of the penis or the wrinkles of the foreskin. Excess candida can result in itching and peeling skin. Treatments may include a topical antifungal cream, an internal antifungal medication, or at-home remedies such as eating more yogurt and other probiotic foods to keep the gut's bacterial population in balance.
White or yellowish discharge from the head of the penis generally indicates an infection. If it is balanitis, your doctor will likely prescribe an antibiotic, often topical, that will keep bacteria from growing on the glans. It is extremly important to keep the glans and the foreskin clean if there is discharge, to keep the infection from worsening and to ensure the trapped discharge doesn't begin to smell.
Itching in the genital region is almost always a sign of a problem requiring treatment. If your itching is due to balanitis, a doctor will prescribe a topical antibiotic to treat the infection, and in some cases a topical itch-reliever to take away the discomfort.
Voyagerix / Getty Images
Many things can cause internal pain in the genital area, from illness to injury. When it is a symptom of balanitis, the pain is generally felt at head of the penis. It could be accompanied by fever or swelling, and it might be worse during urination or sexual intercourse. Pain-killers and topical anti-inflammatory agents may be prescribed to treat pain caused by balanitis. The infection itself will be treated with either antibiotics or antifungals.
If it hurts to even touch your glans or clitoris, it's important to see a doctor. If the doctor diagnoses balanitis, you will likely be given an antibiotic to clear up the infection, and perhaps a topical numbing ointment to counteract the painful skin until the infection clears.
Painful urination or dysuria is almost always a sign of a problem, usually an infection of some sort. If it's balanitis, the doctor will give you an antibiotic. He or she is likely to instruct you to drink plenty of water to keep the urethra flushed out, and possibly receive a diuretic to keep things moving out of the body.
While it's alarming to look down and see sores in such a sensitive spot, it is possible those sores indicate a minor or treatable problem. A doctor will need to determine just what is going on, but if it turns out to be balantis, a simple topical antibiotic or antifungal cream will probably clear up the lesions. The doctor may also prescribe an oral antibiotic to ensure the infection has not spread into the urethra.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.