What is balanitis?

Balanitis is pain and inflammation (swelling and irritation) of the glans (head) of the penis that happens most often in uncircumcised males. Circumcision is a procedure performed to remove skin (the foreskin) from the head of the penis (the glans). Balanitis is typically caused by a yeast infection, however it can be due to a bacterial or viral infection. It’s not contagious.

How common is balanitis?

It’s estimated that up to 10% of males will have balanitis during their lifetime. Balanitis is more likely to occur in uncircumcised men and boys under the age of 4.

What are the types of balanitis?

Balanitis is classified into three types:

  • Balanitis (also called Zoon’s balanitis): This is the main type of balanitis, it usually affects uncircumcised, middle-aged men and causes an inflamed, red penis head.
  • Circinate balanitis: This type of balanitis is a result of reactive arthritis, a type of arthritis that develops in response to an infection in the body. In addition to inflammation and redness, circinate balanitis causes small lesions (sores) on the head of the penis.
  • Pseudoepitheliomatous keratotic and micaceous balanitis: This very rare form of balanitis causes scaly warts on the glans. It affects men over 60.

Who is affected by balanitis?

Balanitis primarily affects uncircumcised males because the moist, warm area under the foreskin is the ideal place for yeast and bacteria to grow. It can occur at any age and is more common in males who have phimosis (tight foreskin that does not easily move over the head of the penis). Groups with a higher risk of balanitis include men who:

  • Practice poor hygiene.
  • Are middle-aged or older.
  • Have diabetes, because the increased glucose (sugar) on their skin can stimulate bacterial and fungal growth.
  • Are obese.
  • Have sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Have a sensitivity to chemical irritants.

How do people get balanitis?

The most common cause of balanitis is poor hygiene in uncircumcised males. Other causes include:

  • Genital yeast infection (candidiasis).
  • Sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Scabies (tiny burrowing parasite) infection.
  • Sensitivity or allergy to harsh soaps or chemicals.
  • Skin conditions that cause itchy, dry, scaly skin (such as psoriasis and eczema).
  • Diabetes.
  • Reactive arthritis, a type of arthritis that develops in response to an infection somewhere in the body.

What are the symptoms of balanitis?

Symptoms of balanitis may appear suddenly or develop gradually. They can include:

  • Pain and irritation on the glans (head of the penis).
  • Redness or red patches on the penis.
  • Itching under the foreskin.
  • Swelling.
  • Areas of shiny or white skin on the penis.
  • White discharge (smegma) under the foreskin
  • Foul smell.
  • Painful urination.
  • Sores or lesions on the glans (this symptom is rare and appears with a type of balanitis that affects men over age 60).

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