Diagnosing balanitis 

Your GP should be able to diagnose balanitis by examining your penis.

You may initially feel embarrassed about visiting your GP with the symptoms of balanitis, but it's important that you do because the symptoms could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition and you or your child may need prescription-only medication.

Seeing your GP

To determine what is causing balanitis, your GP will examine your (or your child’s) penis and ask a number of questions to help determine the cause. They may ask:

  • how often you clean your penis
  • whether you may have been exposed to irritants, such as soap or bubble bath
  • whether you have a history of skin conditions, such as atopic eczema
  • whether you may have damaged the head of your penis during sex

For children, your GP may ask whether you have noticed your child playing with their foreskin and, if your child is very young, they may want to know how often they have their nappy changed.

Further testing is usually only needed if the symptoms are particularly severe or do not clear with treatment. This usually involves taking a small sample of cells from the head of the penis (a swab) and testing them for infection.

Occasionally, your GP may arrange blood and urine tests to measure your blood sugar levels. This is to check whether you have developed diabetes, which may be making you more vulnerable to infection.

Referral to a specialist

In some cases, your GP may refer you to a specialist such as a dermatologist (skin specialist) or urologist (specialist in conditions affecting the urinary tract and genitals).

For example, you may be referred if your GP is not sure what is causing your condition, treatment isn't helping, or your GP thinks you could have an underlying condition.

If your GP thinks your symptoms could be caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), they may recommend getting tested at a sexual health clinic. Testing of your recent sexual partner(s) may also be arranged if appropriate.

Page last reviewed: 27/11/2014

Next review due: 30/09/2017