Posthitis is inflammation of your foreskin. Causes include poor hygiene, bacterial infections, fungal infections, allergies and sexually transmitted infections. Symptoms include pain, swelling and discoloration. Your healthcare provider can diagnose posthitis and recommend treatment. Treatment includes washing your foreskin and medications.


What is posthitis?

Posthitis is cellulitis of the foreskin. In Greek, “posthe” means “foreskin,” and “-itis” means “inflammation.”

The foreskin is a piece of skin that covers the glans (head) of the penis. Another name for foreskin is prepuce.

Posthitis commonly occurs at the same time as balanitis, which is inflammation of the head of your penis. Balanoposthitis is when you have inflammation on both your foreskin and the head of your penis.


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Is posthitis serious?

Posthitis isn’t a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Most of the time, it’s not a serious condition.

Who does posthitis affect?

Posthitis affects uncircumcised males and people assigned male at birth.

Circumcision is a surgical procedure that removes the foreskin from your penis. If you’re uncircumcised, you still have your foreskin.

Posthitis is common among people who wear diapers. It also may occur if you don’t clean under your foreskin regularly. Sweat, dead skin, bacteria, urine (pee) and other debris can collect under your foreskin and cause irritation. If you don’t regularly wash your foreskin and the sensitive skin under your foreskin, inflammation can occur. However, inflammation can also occur if you vigorously scrub your foreskin.

You may also be more likely to have posthitis if you have phimosis. Phimosis is narrowing and scarring of the foreskin that prevents the head of your penis from coming all the way out.


How common is posthitis?

Posthitis is common. It may affect between 12% and 20% of uncircumcised males and people assigned male at birth at some point in their life.

How does posthitis affect my body?

Posthitis causes inflammation and pain. Urinating (peeing) and orgasming (ejaculating) may be uncomfortable.

If you get posthitis regularly, it may be a sign that you have diabetes. You may also have a greater risk of getting penile cancer.


Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of posthitis?

Posthitis symptoms include:

  • Pain.
  • Tenderness.
  • Edema (swelling).
  • Itching.
  • Foul-smelling discharge (smegma).
  • Discoloration (red, purple or slightly darker than your usual skin color) that may look like a rash.
  • Difficulty peeing in severe cases.

What causes posthitis?

Posthitis causes include:

  • Phimosis.
  • Cleaning under your foreskin infrequently.
  • Bacterial infections including Streptococcus, Haemophilus parainfluenzae, Klebsiella and Staphylococcus epidermidis.
  • Fungal infections, including Candida albicans.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including gonorrhea.
  • Psoriasis.
  • Eczema.
  • Dermatitis.
  • Allergies, including latex condoms, lubricants, spermicides and corticosteroids.

Is posthitis contagious?

No, posthitis isn’t contagious.

How do you get posthitis?

Most people get posthitis from a bacterial or fungal infection, usually from infrequently cleaning under their foreskin.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is posthitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will diagnose posthitis. They’ll ask questions about your symptoms and perform a physical examination of your penis.

What tests will be done to diagnose posthitis?

In many cases, your healthcare provider won’t conduct any tests to confirm a posthitis diagnosis. However, they may order tests to determine the cause.

These tests may include:

  • Skin test. A skin test will help identify bacteria and viruses. Your healthcare provider will gently rub a cotton swab over your foreskin. They’ll then send the cotton swab to a laboratory for analysis.
  • Urethral discharge swab. A urethral discharge swab helps identify bacteria and viruses. Your healthcare provider will carefully insert a cotton swab about 3/4 of an inch (2 cm) into your urethral opening (the hole at the tip of your penis) and gently rotate it. Your healthcare provider will then send the cotton swab to a laboratory for testing.
  • Urinalysis. A urinalysis examines the visual, chemical and microscopic aspects of your pee. They’ll look for different causes of your posthitis, including bacteria or high sugar (glucose) levels, which could be a sign of diabetes. You’ll pee into a special cup. Your healthcare provider will then send your sample to a laboratory for testing.

Management and Treatment

Is posthitis curable?

Yes, posthitis is curable. Posthitis treatment depends on its cause.

Treatments may include:

  • Antibiotics. Your healthcare provider can treat bacterial and viral infections by prescribing antibiotics.
  • Antifungal creams. If a fungus is responsible for your posthitis, your provider will prescribe an antifungal cream to treat the infection. Common antifungal creams include clotrimazole (Lotrimin®), econazole (Spectazole®), miconazole (Neosporin AF®) and sulconazole (Exelderm®). Apply the cream to your foreskin as prescribed by your healthcare provider.
  • Antihistamines. If an allergen causes posthitis, your healthcare provider may recommend antihistamines.
  • Circumcision. If you get posthitis often, your healthcare provider may recommend removing your foreskin.
  • Diabetes management. If you have diabetes, your healthcare provider will teach you how to manage it. Managing your diabetes may include monitoring your blood glucose levels, maintaining your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, controlling your blood pressure, following a food plan and exercising regularly.
  • Improved hygiene. Regularly wash and dry your foreskin and genitals.

What antibiotics treat posthitis?

Your healthcare provider may recommend one of the following antibiotics to treat your posthitis:

Can I have sex if I have posthitis?

Posthitis isn’t an STI. However, an STI may be the cause. You should avoid having sex until you know the cause of your posthitis.

Sex may also cause further irritation or discomfort on your foreskin. Avoiding sex may help your posthitis go away faster.

Posthitis can look like an STI, even if that’s not the cause. It’s a good idea to be honest with your partner about your posthitis. If they have any questions, encourage them to talk to a healthcare provider before you have sex.

If you have sex while you have posthitis, carefully clean and dry your foreskin after. Reapply any medications.

How long does it take for posthitis to go away?

In most cases, posthitis goes away on its own within a week.


How can I prevent posthitis?

Practicing proper hygiene is the best way to help prevent posthitis. Bathe regularly and carefully wash your foreskin and genital area with soap and water. Pull your foreskin back and clean the skin underneath.

It’s also a good idea to wear a condom while having sex. Wearing a condom will help prevent STIs that can cause posthitis.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have posthitis?

The outlook for most people with posthitis is good. Many often recover without treatment.

The risk of posthitis coming back increases if you don’t regularly clean under your foreskin. If you get posthitis often, your healthcare provider may recommend circumcision.

Living With

How do I take care of myself?

The following tips can help ease irritation, inflammation and discomfort:

  • Bathe often. Wash every day. Teach your child the importance of proper hygiene.
  • Avoid harsh soaps and lotions. Use soaps and lotions that are free of perfumes, dyes and alcohol. Look for products labeled “fragrance-free,” “hypoallergenic” or “for sensitive skin.”
  • Avoid wearing tight underwear and pants. Tight underwear and pants trap heat and moisture around your groin. Heat and moisture create the perfect environment for fungi to grow.
  • Use mild laundry detergent. Use mild laundry detergents to wash your clothes, especially underwear and pants. It’s also a good idea to use an extra rinse cycle to wash out all detergent thoroughly.
  • Stay dry. After peeing, dry your foreskin and the skin under your foreskin.

When should I see my healthcare provider?

Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of posthitis. Your provider will test you for infections, prescribe medications and recommend good hygiene practices.

What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?

  • How can you tell that I have posthitis?
  • What’s the cause of my posthitis?
  • If I don’t have posthitis, what other condition might I have?
  • What tests will you conduct to confirm your diagnosis?
  • Is it safe for me to have sex?
  • Is there a medication that you can prescribe?
  • Should I see a dermatologist, urologist or another specialist?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Posthitis is common in people with foreskin. It usually goes away without treatment, but that doesn’t stop it from being alarming, embarrassing and annoying. You should first thoroughly clean your foreskin. Regularly clean it every day. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have irritation or inflammation on your foreskin for more than a few days. They can diagnose posthitis, determine its cause and recommend medications.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 09/01/2022.

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