What is balanitis?
If you have ever had unexplained soreness and swelling in your penis, you were probably understandably worried. Balanitis, or pain and swelling around the glans of the penis, is a common condition and one that needs treatment. Genital swelling and pain can be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection or another medical issue. It's unwise to ignore the problem and hope it gets better on its own.
Your doctor can help you determine what caused your balanitis. If you get appropriate treatments, the discomfort will go away. Your doctor can also tell you how to prevent future episodes of balanitis.
Balanitis is inflammation of the head of the penis, usually painful and accompanied by redness and irritation. Balanitis is more common in people who have an intact foreskin, though people who are circumcised can have it as well.
Balanitis is a symptom, not a condition. The swelling is a sign that something is irritating the skin on your penis. It isn’t always due to sexually transmitted diseases, but it can be a symptom of one. If you are concerned that you have contracted a sexually transmitted infection, you should contact your doctor right away. The sooner you get tested, the sooner you can get an STD treated.
Other causes of balanitis include:
- Bacterial infections
- Yeast infections
- Allergic reactions
- Skin conditions such as psoriasis
- Complications from type 2 diabetes
- Side effects of certain medications
Not cleaning the head of the penis well or not washing under the foreskin is often the cause of balanitis. The foreskin can trap microorganisms that flourish in dark, moist environments. Those bacteria or fungi lead to skin infections and irritation.
Managing discomfort from balanitis
If you have pain and swelling in your penis, your first priority might be to reduce discomfort. Ask your doctor if you can take pain medicine or anti-inflammatory drugs to bring down the swelling and control the pain. You can also ask about using cold compresses or baths with Epsom salts to make yourself more comfortable.
Treatments for balanitis
The treatment for balanitis depends on the causes. Once your doctor has diagnosed the reason your penis is swollen, they will tell you what treatment you need.
Substances like body wash, laundry detergent, and spermicide can cause allergic reactions. If this is causing irritation and swelling, your doctor may suggest a steroid cream to bring down swelling and soothe itching. Antihistamines might help reduce the severity of the reaction. You should avoid future contact with whatever caused the reaction.
If you have a bacterial infection, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic. You might need an oral antibiotic or a cream that you apply directly to your penis.
If you have a yeast infection or other type of fungal infection, you will need anti-fungal medication. There are oral treatments that clear up fungal infections as well as creams or ointments that you can apply to the skin.
If you have an STD such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, your doctor will give you medicine. Ask your doctor about safe sex practices to prevent passing the STD to your partner or getting infected again in the future.
If the swelling is related to a condition such as an autoimmune disorder or type 2 diabetes, you will need to take care of the underlying health issue to prevent balanitis from coming back. Your doctor will advise you on how to manage your overall health. They can also give you treatment to ease the pain and swelling in your penis.
If you are uncircumcised and have frequent, recurring balanitis, your doctor might suggest circumcision. Removing the foreskin can make it easier to keep the penis clean and prevent fungal or bacterial overgrowth.
If you want to reduce the risk of future episodes of balanitis, you should be conscientious about cleaning your penis. Wash regularly with warm water and mild soap. Carefully retract your foreskin to gently clean underneath it. If you need to, you can also retract it again to pat the area dry after washing.
Some people find that soaps with fragrances irritate their skins, so choose unscented body washes. Some laundry detergents or fabric softeners have ingredients that irritate the skin as well. If you have balanitis due to allergic reactions, you may want to switch to detergent without fragrances or dyes.
If you have any underlying condition that leads to recurrent episodes of balanitis or if you require help bathing, talk to your doctor about how your caregivers should care for your penis.
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Advanced Urology: "What is Balanitis and How Is It Treated?"
American Family Physician: "Adult Circumcision."
National Health Service: "Balanitis."