Balanitis: The symptoms and treatments

Sexual Health

What is balanitis?

Balanitis or balanoposthitis is a yeast infection of the tip of the penis. It can be described as an inflammation of the penis glans. But this condition can also result that the foreskin gets inflamed which intern can cover the head of the penis. Balanitis can be observed in non-circumcised as well as circumcised males. But circumcised males tend to be more affected. That is since the function of the foreskin is to perform a protective immunological function.

This condition is included as a STD as tone of the causes of this condition are different STIs. Therefore it would be correct to say that this condition is more a symptom of those STIs. Nonetheless, this is a problem that can cause pain among men, and in severe cases lead to death.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can include:

  • A red rash, swelling and soreness around the head of the penis
  • Itchiness
  • A thick and lumpy discharge under foreskin
  • An nasty odor
  • Pain when urinating

How is it transmitted?

A male, of any age, can develop this condition. However, there are several causes that can lead to this condition. These include:

A skin irritation. This can take place because it’s not always possible to pull back the foreskin fully at this age, leading to a build-up of a cheesy-looking substance called smegma that can irritate the skin. Irritation by smegma is also a common cause of balanitis in uncircumcised men if the penis is not kept clean.

However there are different other causes of balanitis namely:

  • By the condition of contact dermatitis, which is the irritation caused by urine or substances such as soaps and shower gels
  • Particularly a problem with people with diabetes or people that have taking antibiotics is that of thrush, skin conditions, for example psoriasis, atopic eczema, lichen sclerosus and lichen planus
  • A bacterial infection, typically triggered by streptococcal bacteria
  • Sexual transmitted infections (STIs), such as gonorrhea, genital herpes and syphilis.

That said, there are cases where no cause can be found.

How do you test for it?

Physical examination of red rash in the affected area is necessary in case you notice any of the above mentioned symptoms or were informed about the fact that your partner also has yeast infection.

If the balanitis is caused by an infectious organism, the organism should be identified and the appropriate medical treatment determined based on the identified infectious agent. Biopsy may be necessary for proper diagnosis.

How can it be treated?

Treatment without first obtaining a diagnosis is like a shot in the dark – one may hit the target but one is far more likely to miss. But personal hygiene is important, especially if you are uncircumcised. A daily clean of the foreskin is needed. But it then also need to be dried. This is the basic preventative steps. However if the infection has taken hold, there are antifungal creams that can be applied. Alternatively there are antibiotics or corticosteroids that can be used. All of these medication will be depended on what the underlying cause of the condition is.

These treatments will usually start to have an effect within a week and can be stopped after around two weeks, even though in some people it does eventually come back after treatment. This is partly since the sex partner is not informed about the condition and they are been reinfected.

But to get rid of the problem a circumcision might be needed.

How can you prevent balanitis?

You can usually reduce your chances of developing balanitis if you avoid potential irritants and infections, and keep your penis clean.

Possible irritants to avoid include:

  • soaps and bubble bath
  • baby wipes
  • creams
  • lubricants
  • latex condoms

You can buy creams to use instead of soap and latex-free condoms made for sensitive skin.

Penis hygiene is important, therefore you should keep your penis clean by making sure the tip of your penis is completely dry and free of urine after urinating. But also carefully wash the head of your penis with water every day and gently clean under your foreskin. And make sure you dry your penis thoroughly after bathing or showering.

This advice also applies to children, although young boys may not yet be able to clean under their foreskin because it may not fully pull back. This should not be forced and should eventually become possible as they get older.

Babies and young children who still wear nappies may also be at a higher risk of balanitis due to the warm and moist conditions, so make sure you change your child’s nappy regularly.