Media last reviewed: 22/10/2014

Next review due: 22/10/2016

How to wash a penis

Tips on keeping your penis and testicles clean, healthy and fit for purpose

Balanitis (balanoposthitis) is swelling of the head of the penis. The foreskin (the loose flap of skin that covers the head of the penis) is also often affected.

Balanitis is a common condition affecting both boys and men, although it happens more often in men who have not been circumcised.

Symptoms of balanitis include swelling, redness and soreness of the end of the penis. There might also be a thick discharge under the foreskin.

Read more about the symptoms of balanitis.

When to see your GP

Visit your GP or local sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic if you have any of the symptoms of balanitis. While balanitis is not usually serious, it can be a sign of another condition, such as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or thrush (a type of yeast infection).

Also visit your GP if your son develops balanitis. They may need prescription-only medication, such as antibiotics.

Who is affected?

Balanitis can happen at any age. An estimated one in 20 boys under five years old are affected by balanitis. One in 10 men who attend a sexual health or genito-urinary (GUM) clinic have balanitis.

Skin irritation is the most common cause of balanitis in boys. This can occur because it's not always possible to pull back the foreskin fully at this age, leading to a build up of a cheesy-looking substance called smegma that can irritate the skin.

Irritation by smegma is also a common cause of balanitis in uncircumcised men if the penis is not kept clean.

Other cause of balanitis in men include:

Read more about the causes of balanitis.

Balanitis is not normally serious and can often be prevented by avoiding irritants and good hygiene.

Read more about preventing balanitis.

Treating balanitis 

Most cases of balanitis are easily managed with a combination of creams or ointments, good hygiene and avoiding substances that irritate the penis.

In rare cases of balanitis that keep coming back, circumcision (surgical removal of the foreskin) may be recommended. For example, in cases where the foreskin can't be pulled back (phimosis) to be cleaned or there is persistent dribbling of urine following urination.

Read more about treatment for balanitis.

Page last reviewed: 29/11/2012

Next review due: 29/11/2014


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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Auriculas said on 16 September 2014

Not easy to clear but in my experience the best remedy is to thoroughly clean twice a day. I used, successfully, a diluted mouth wash solution of Corsodyl, then dry thoroughly and cover with small amount of Sudocrem.
Persevere as this can take months to clear, but the treatment quickly removed the unpleasant symptoms of itchiness and pain. Clearing the inflammation completely can take many weeks.
I was given various ointments from the GP and hospital consultant, but none worked and only made matters worse.

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