What is Phimosis? When does it occur and what options do you have?

Phimosis is narrowing of the foreskin. It can occur commonly in adults and is caused by recurrent balanitis, inflammation and trauma. Although it is not a serious condition, you should still go to see your GP, if you think that you or your son has balanitis.

The presenting symptoms are variable and include poor stream, spraying, ballooning, recurrent attacks of balanitis and pain, although sometimes patients may present because of cosmesis concerns.

A phimosis itself can lead to recurrent infections and also predisposes to penis cancer, which is rare.

Some of the more common symptoms of balantis 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

The foreskin itself, but not phimosis, pre-disposes to HIV infection. Randomised controlled trials have shown circumcision to reduce the risk of contracting HIV but only in heterosexual males; this has led to widespread circumcision programmes in Africa, led by the WHO. In the UK this is currently NOT recommended because of the lower incidence.

In cases of symptomatic phimosis, a Circumcision is commonly undertaken. It is not unusual to find red patches on the glans in such cases. These usually resolve after circumcision. If they do not, topical anti-fungal therapy may help and if no resolution occurs a biopsy may be needed.

At Urology Clinics we commonly see patients who require circumcision. On some occasions circumcisions can go wrong or be unsatisfactory; Urology Clinics has the expertise to help in such circumstances. Please get in touch if you would like to speak to our expert team.

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.