Balanitis

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WHAT IS IT?

Balanitis is inflammation of the glans (head) of the penis. The most common symptom of balanitis is a blotchy red rash, which may be itchy.

WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?

There are lots of germs that live on our skin and usually cause no problems. Sometimes they over-grow and cause skin changes which might be uncomfortable. 
A common cause of infection is a yeast called candida (commonly known as ‘thrush’). It is normal for candida to live on the skin. Sometimes it overgrows and causes skin irritation. This can happen to any man. This is called balanitis.
A healthy man should be able to clear up his balanitis if he follows the advice on this sheet. Men with diabetes may get balanitis often, or they can find it hard to get rid of. If you get balanitis a lot, or find it hard to get rid of, you may need a test for diabetes.

Some things cause balanitis by irritating the skin of the penis. These are:

  • If you do not wash under your foreskin, skin shedding, urine, and sweat, can collect there. 
  • Soaps and disinfectants
  • Too much washing or scrubbing the penis

Some skin conditions may cause balanitis, or be mistaken for balanitis. For example, psoriasis and some less common skin conditions can affect the penis.
A tight foreskin (called “phimosis”) can also lead to balanitis. Phimosis is where the foreskin is too tight to be rolled back from the head of the penis. This is normal in young boys. After the age of 5 the foreskin will usually roll back easily. If you can’t easily roll the foreskin away from the glans and clean underneath it, germs can grow there and cause balanitis. 

TREATMENT AND PREVENTION

Keep the skin on your penis healthy. This may stop you getting persistent balanitis and will help it to get better. To keep your penis healthy: 

  • Don't use soap especially of it is perfumed.
  • Use plain water only to wash if the penis is red, sore and/or itchy. 
  • To clean the penis, use Sorbolene cream instead of soap. Sorbolene is a gentle moisturiser that is very good for sensitive or inflamed skin. It is cheap and you can buy it at supermarkets.
  • Use lukewarm water to clean your penis and then dry gently.
  • A bath in salty water may help soothe the itch and discomfort.

These creams may also be recommended:

  • If there is a fungal infection, ask the chemist for Canesten 1% cream.
  • Rub the cream onto the head of the penis and all over the inside of the foreskin, twice a day for 7 – 10 days. 
  • Use the cream after you shower. 
  • Use the cream until the irritation is better and then for 7 days after. This will help stop the balanitis coming back. If it isn’t better after a week of treatment, see your doctor.
  • If the skin remains very red and sore after 1 week of treatment, see your doctor.
PREVENTION

To prevent balanitis:

  • At least once a day, while you’re in the shower, pull back the foreskin as far as it goes. You should be able to see all the way around the edge of the head of the penis. 
  • Wash around the head and under the foreskin gently, using warm water only. You can also use a soap-free wash such as Sorbolene and Glycerine Cream, Johnsons Baby Bath, QV Wash or Hamiltons Wash. You can get these at a chemist or supermarket. 
  • Do not use soap. 
  • Dry the head of the penis gently before you put on underpants.
  • Wash your hands before going to the toilet if you work with chemicals. These can irritate the skin of the penis.
  • When you go to the toilet to pass urine (pee), pull the foreskin back so that urine does not get under the foreskin. After you finish peeing, dry the end of the penis and then roll the foreskin back down over the head of the penis.
  • Wash and dry the penis after sex and masturbating

If you get balanitis a lot, or if your foreskin is too tight to roll back and forth easily, see your doctor.

DISCLAIMER:
This fact sheet is designed to provide you with information on balanitis. It is not intended to replace the need for a consultation with your doctor. All clients are strongly advised to check with their doctor about any specific questions or concerns they may have. Every effort has been taken to ensure that the information in this pamphlet is correct at the time of printing.

Last Updated April 2016