Balanitis: Urology Clinics Manchester discusses the causes, management and symptoms

Balanitis is inflammation of the glans penis. Inflammation of the foreskin (posthitis) may also occur in combination with this (balanoposthitis). It is common and is predisposed by diabetes. Tight foreskin may also cause this, although cycles of inflammation and scarring also contribute to the formation of phimosis.

Typically, patients will present with irritation but rarely have urinary symptoms.

Management revolves around initial advice on hygiene and analysis for possible diabetes. In recurrent episodes, a circumcision may be advisable. Patients who present acutely should have herpes excluded (if sexually active), and where necessary, be treated and referred to a specialist. In those with ulceration and lymphadenopathy treatment is urgent as failure to resolve may be due to more sinister pathology.

Commonly, yeast/fungal infections may be the cause. In such cases topical or oral therapy is useful. In others, faecal bacteria may be the causative organism; hence metronidazole or flucloxacillin may help.

Patients should be considered for circumcision if phimosis or recurrent problems occur.

Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • A sore, itchy, smelly penis
  • A build-up of thick fluid
  • Swelling and/or redness
  • Pain when urinating

Adults with balanitis can also experience phimosis; which is when the foreskin will not pull back.

Balanitis can be caused by a number of factors, which can include:

  • Build-up of smegma due to insufficient hygiene
  • Irritation from urine or soap
  • Thrush
  • A bacterial infection
  • Sexually transmitted infection

Your GP will usually be able to diagnose balanitis by just looking, and may suggest a treatment. If the symptoms do not improve within a week you may have to undergo further tests to see if there is an infection. You may also be referred to a dermatologist, urologist or sexual health specialist.

Most cases can be treated by good hygiene and use of ointments. If you have balanitis then you should try to clean your penis once a day with lukewarm water once a day, then towel dry them. Avoid using any scented soaps or bubble baths, try to use a gentle soap that is available at the pharmacy. Depending on the cause of the balanitis, your GP will supply you with an ointment. This can be:

  • Steroid cream- to help irritated skin
  • Anti-fungal cream – if there is a yeast infection
  • Antibiotic cream – if there is a bacterial infection

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.