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Condition Basics

What is balanitis?

Balanitis is inflammation of the head of the penis. In adults, it's more common if the penis hasn't been circumcised. The foreskin may also be inflamed. In children, balanitis is more common in circumcised babies. This is because wearing diapers allows direct contact between the penis and germs in stools.

What causes it?

Balanitis often happens when the area under the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis isn't kept clean. It can also be caused by certain chemicals in soap, condoms, or lubricants. A reaction to medicines may cause it. Or the cause may be a skin problem like eczema or a sexually transmitted infection.

What are the symptoms?

Balanitis can make the head of the penis painful, red, swollen, and itchy. Pus or a milky liquid may leak from the area and cause a bad smell.

How is it diagnosed?

To diagnose balanitis, your doctor will ask you questions about your health and do a physical exam. You may have a test called a skin culture to check for germs that may be causing the inflammation. If needed, you may also be tested for sexually transmitted infections or other conditions.

How is balanitis treated?

Treatment of balanitis depends on what is causing it. Keeping the penis clean can help. If a medicine or other product you're using is causing it, your doctor may have you stop using it. Your doctor may also give you medicine that you put on the skin.

How can you prevent it?

One way to prevent balanitis is to keep your penis clean. If you haven't been circumcised, gently pull the foreskin back to wash your penis with warm water. Avoid soaps and other chemicals that can irritate the skin of your penis. And make sure that your penis is dry before you get dressed.

Related Information


Current as of: November 27, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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