Phimosis – When a Foreskin is Too Tight

Many parents may feel concerned that their new-born’s foreskin cannot be pulled back and feel that they need circumcision to correct it. However, nine out of ten boys’ foreskins are tight or stuck to the head of the penis when they’re born, and it can sometimes last up until six years of age.

This is known as phimosis, which is completely normal for the first two to six years. It protects the head of the penis from coming into contact with things like bacteria and viruses, while also stopping it from rubbing against things and becoming sore. Sometimes, the foreskin of some boys can take longer to separate and will detach at a later stage – again, completely normal.

When there’s a problem

Despite phimosis being a normal phenomenon, there are instances where it can cause an issue, such as redness, swelling or infection. It can also cause a skin irritation called balanitis, which can affect both men and boys.

The symptoms of balanitis include: An itchy, smelly penis, redness and swelling, a build-up of thick fluid and pain when urinating. If the glans and foreskin are inflamed, the condition is known as balanoposthitis.

If you think you or your son has balanitis or balanoposthitis, we would always recommend seeing a doctor to receive the appropriate treatment.

Finally, in teenagers and adults, having a non-retractable foreskin can cause pain during sex or an erection. There’s also the potential for it to cause a balloon-like swelling under the foreskin if the opening is so small that urine cannot escape.

Treatment for phimosis

The first port of call is usually to visit a doctor who will be able to give you or your son treatment to try and reduce the swelling. They may apply a local anaesthetic cream, prescribe pain medication or inject the penis with a local anaesthetic to numb the pain.

If the balanitis or balanoposthitis is caused by a fungal or bacterial infection, your healthcare provider may prescribe anti-fungal medication or antibiotics. Topical steroids may also be prescribed to treat a tight foreskin thanks to their ability to soften the skin and make it easier to retract.

When the first line of treatment doesn’t work

If none of the above techniques work, or if symptoms keep reappearing, sometimes a small surgical slit can be made in the dorsal region of the tight skin. To stop a recurrence of the problem, this procedure should later be followed with a circumcision.

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to treat phimosis with non-surgical methods, and sometimes the only thing that will fix the problem is circumcision. This will permanently remove the problem, rather than simply treating symptoms.

Circumcision is a popular treatment for phimosis and is one of medicine’s oldest surgeries. At Birmingham Circumcision Clinic, we are one of the biggest circumcision providers across Europe. We circumcise babies, children, teenagers and adults and have been awarded the NHS Contract for Cultural and Religious Circumcision by Birmingham South Central CCG.

If you or a loved one is suffering from phimosis and you want to go down the circumcision route, you can find out more about our services by talking to our knowledgeable and friendly team on: 0121 250 0386  and by reading more here and here.