What Is Balanitis?

Are you wondering what is Balanitis? Balanitis is when the glans, or rounded head of the penis, becomes inflamed. It includes symptoms such as redness and/or swelling, rash, itching, and often has a discharge that has a foul odor (smegma). When both the glans and foreskin are inflamed it is called balanoposthitis.

Boys and men who have not been circumcised or have poor hygiene are often the target for this condition. By not cleaning the glans, which is covered by the foreskin, bacteria, dead skin, and debris can accumulate. If the foreskin is tight (phimosis), it often makes it hard to keep this area clean because the foreskin is too tight and it is hard to pull it back. This allows germs to multiply.  There are other things which can cause balanitis, such as an allergy from soaps or perfumes. STDs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, or herpes, and yeast infections can also produce symptoms of balanitis. Also men with diabetes may get it from the glucose in the urine which increases the growth of bacteria. It seldom occurs in men who are circumcised.

Other conditions for which balanitis can be a symptom are lichen planus, eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis. Latex condoms, spermicides, and lubricants may also cause allergic reactions. Even the detergents that are used to wash clothes can cause a problem if they are not completely rinsed out. Because the glans is covered by the foreskin, it can get very moist which is a breeding ground for bacteria or yeast. Excessive washing of the genitals can often cause balanitis from the use of too much soap.

Balanitis is easily diagnosed. The doctor will discuss possible causes with the patient and things they may try to avoid, along with the recommendation of good hygiene.  Allergy to latex is also a possibility so the patient may have to change the type of condom he is using. If none of this works and the condition continues, a swab, biopsy or blood test may be given to aid in the diagnosis.

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