What is Phimosis? (Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and Surgery Cost)

6 minutes

What is Phimosis?

Phimosis is a condition of the male penis that leads to an inability to uncover the glans due to a more or less evident constriction of the foreskin.

At birth, all newborns have naturally balanced adhesions that serve to protect the penis. As they approach 3 or 4 years of age, the penis begins to grow, as does the foreskin, which removes these adhesions. In 1% of cases, however, the foreskin does not grow as much as the penis. Because of this, the glans cannot be uncovered, due to a lack of tissue in the foreskin, and we then refer to it as congenital phimosis.

At other times, however, the phimosis arises in adulthood, as a result of an infection of the prepuce or the glans. Even if the infection is treated, it can leave scars that tend to harden over time, leading to the formation of a ring of inelastic phimotic tissue, called a phimotic ring. This creates a “loop” of hard skin that prevents you from uncovering the glans. Finally, depending on the severity of the condition, we refer to tightened or non-tightened phimosis.

Symptoms of Phimosis

Usually, Phimosis does not cause any pain and due to this, it can even go unnoticed for quite a long time. Some of the symptoms of Phimosis include

  • Swelling: Swelling can happen at the foreskin when it is filled with urine. The tight foreskin will remain shut over the tip of the penis not allowing the urine to pass through.
  • Inability to retract the foreskin: This inability is one of the most common symptoms of Phimosis and is quite noticeable in the early years of a boy’s development.
  • Painful urination: Sometimes there might be a pain in the penis while urination due to the blockage of the foreskin at the tip of the penis.
  • Painful erections: Erections can be quite painful at times due to Phimosis as the foreskin can’t be extended when the penis is erect.

Causes of Phimosis

Phimosis is usually seen in the early years of a boy’s life and this condition can even occur in the older age too. On some occasions, phimosis can also occur if the foreskin has been retracted by force before its natural separation from the glans took place.

An infection on the foreskin of the penis or on the head of the penis can also cause phimosis. The inflammation in those areas is known as balanitis. On some occasions, there is discharge within the foreskin, and the subsequent inflammation on the glans as well as the foreskin is known as balanoposthitis.

In older men, phimosis can be caused due to Sexually transmitted diseases(STDs) and Eczema which is drying or cracking of foreskin causing itching.

Treatments for Phimosis

  • Exercises for stretching the phimosis

There are a lot of websites that state through some homemade exercises (by slowly moving the foreskin to cover and uncover the glans) it is possible to cure phimosis. Such statements are often misleading.

As already described, forcing the phimotic tissue could lead to the creation of small cuts on the foreskin that, healing, would worsen the condition of the phimosis present. Moreover, for these exercises, using lubricating creams and ointments to help the movement and care of phimosis is often recommended.

In reality, various medical and scientific research studies have shown that the use of lubricating ointments does not in any way resolve the narrowing of the foreskin. Even if some results have been achieved by slowly moving the foreskin, there would be no guarantee of a consolidated result over time, and there would be the risk of the phimosis reappearing in an even more severe form.

These exercises can only be partially useful in cases of very mild phimosis but, due to the consequences described above, doctors always advise against them. It is not the right choice to cure phimosis.

  • Phimosis Operation

The most widely used treatment for phimosis is circumcision surgery. Circumcision is now an operation that is performed in a day hospital, however, sometimes in public facilities, there are waiting lists ranging from two weeks to two years. Post-operative recovery times range from three to four weeks.

This cure, by total circumcision, certainly solves the phimosis. However, there are two aspects that in our opinion, are strongly restrictive:: the psychological impact and the irreversibility of removal. Having your foreskin removed with a scalpel is never a pleasant prospect, either because of the thought of ​​undergoing an operation on your penis or because your penis changes its appearance and a more or less substantial part is removed.

  • Phimostop

Phimostop is a medical device that was created with the aim of treating phimosis before resorting to a surgical operation, which is a difficult and expensive choice (psychologically and economically) for men. 

A series of hypoallergenic medical silicone tubes have been developed and ergonomically designed for application on the phimosis, based on the principle of skin dilation. The tabloids, with a progressive diameter, introduce a slow stretching pressure on the phimotic tissue, allowing the formation of new elastic cells. In a short period of time, depending on the type of phimosis, there is a recovery of foreskin elasticity until the conditions preceding phimosis onset are restored.

Phimosis treatment with Phimostop allows a return to normal foreskin functionality without removing any parts and with a stabilization of the result.

Cost of surgery in the USA

The usual cost of Adult Circumcision ranges from $2500 to $4000.

Steroid cream for Phimosis

 Therapy of ointments with steroids for phimosis is another option to cure phimosis. Steroid creams help to soften the skin and make it easier to stretch the foreskin. Usually, they are applied twice a day to the tip of the foreskin, for a period of four to eight weeks.  After two weeks, one should be able to start gradually stretching the foreskin once a day. one should only do this after being shown how by a doctor.  

One should do this gently to avoid damaging the foreskin. Research has shown that this form of treatment is often successful at first. For example, one study showed that the use of a steroid cream in children was 62% successful. However, the use of a steroid cream often needs to be repeated and is not always a permanent solution.