What is Balanitis? (Causes, Symptoms,and Treatments)

What is Balanitis?

Balanitis is the inflammation of the head of the penis(Glans). “Balanos” refers to the glans of the penis and “-itis” typically refers to inflammation. A fungal infection, bacterial infection, or a variety of other factors may all contribute to this inflammation. Men who still have their foreskin are more likely to develop this issue.

Inflammation of both the glans and the foreskin is referred to medically as balanoposthitis, and if you have trouble pulling back your foreskin over the head of the penis, that’s referred to as phimosis.

There are three main types of balanitis: Zoon’s balanitis, which is the most common, circinate balanitis, which relates to reactive arthritis, and pseudoepitheliomatous keratotic and micaceous balanitis, which leads to wart-like growths.

Zoon’s balanitis: Inflammation of the head of the penis and the foreskin. Usually affects middle-aged to older men who have not been circumcised.

Circinate balanitis:  Circinate balanitis is a skin condition of reactive arthritis comprising a serpiginous ring-shaped dermatitis of the glans penis. Circinate balanitis is one of the most common cutaneous manifestations of reactive arthritis.

Micaceous Balanitis: Micaceous balanitis is an extremely rare penile disorder involving the skin of the glans that occurs in older men who undergo circumcision late in life.

What causes balanitis?

Poor hygiene in people with an uncircumcised penis is the most common cause of balanitis, especially in people who have a tight foreskin that’s difficult to pull back. However, it’s not the only cause as several forms of skin sensitivities and issues may lead to inflammation.

Common Balanitis Causes

  • Reactive arthritis
  • Skin irritation or allergic reactions, often caused by using soaps, lotions, scents, and spermicides
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like herpes
  • Skin cancers
  • Benign skin issues like psoriasis
  • Yeast infections 
  • Complications relating to type 2 diabetes
  • Side-effects of some medications, such as certain painkillers

Balanitis is more likely to affect young boys when their hygiene practices are also developing. The second most common group to be affected by this condition is middle-aged men and older men, particularly those with diabetes, because the glucose on their skin provides ideal conditions for fungal development.

Symptoms of balanitis

The most immediately obvious symptom is a balanitis rash, or redness and swelling around the head of your penis. Other symptoms include

  • Irritation or pain on the head of the penis
  • Redness or red patches
  • Swelling
  • White, lumpy balanitis discharge under the foreskin (smegma)
  • Shiny, white skin on the glans
  • Itchy genitals
  • Bleeding around foreskin
  • Trouble pulling back the foreskin
  • Sores or lesions on the glans (head of the penis)
  • Foul smell, often due to smegma
  • Painful urination

If the swelling places pressure on the urethra, it causes painful urination. Contact the doctor right away if this is one of your signs.

If these symptoms worsen, they can have an effect on your sex life, urination, and overall penis wellbeing. They must not be ignored.

Treatment for Balanitis

The treatment of balanitis I based on whether it’s a bacterial or fungal infection. This assessment is typically done via a physical exam and/or lab work by your doctor.

For bacterial balanitis, medication like an antibiotic pill regimen or antibiotic cream is often prescribed. For candida balanitis, treatment will often be an antifungal cream (due to the fact that it is a fungal infection similar to thrush).

When an allergic response is the root cause, medication is often used to alleviate symptoms. Although it’s not a good idea to self-diagnose or self-treat, keeping the area clean and avoiding scented lotions or soaps will help prevent the infection from worsening.

For individuals with a foreskin who get a recurrent balanitis infection, sometimes a doctor might recommend a surgical circumcision to help avoid future infections.

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