Balanitis

Specialty of Urology

What is it?

Balanitis is a skin irritation on the glans penis (the head of the penis). The inflammation causes redness, pain, itching and swelling to the tip of the penis. It can affect men and boys. Balanitis can be caused by fungi (Candidal balanitis), by bacteria (Gardnerella or Trichomonas vaginalis), by a trauma or an irritation or by dryness (thus causing a contact allergic reaction).

Balanitis can either be:

  • acute : when it only lasts for a few days
  • chronic : when it lasts for over two weeks

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of balanitis usually include:

  • inflammation
  • genital erythema (redness)
  • itching
  • a burning sensation
  • having trouble passing urine
  • bleeding
  • genital oedema (swelling)

Other symptoms may include whitish or yellowish discharge, unpleasant genital smell and swollen inguinal lymph nodes. If you’re suffering from other conditions which may lead to a presence of bacteria in your blood, balanitis will become more severe.

How is it diagnosed?

To diagnose you with balanitis, your doctor will take a skin tissue sample (this may be done with a simple swab) and analyse it under a microscope. Sometimes, balanitis can be diagnosed by simply looking at your penis.

What causes it?

Balanitis is mainly caused by poor hygiene. Other reasons behind include:

Diabetic balanitis is a form of balanitis which develops as a consequence of diabetes.

How can it be prevented?

Balanitis can be prevented by keeping your genitalia clean and by making sure the head of the penis is always dry after passing urine.

What is the treatment?

If you have balanitis, the treatment will depend on which kind of balanitis you have and on what symptoms you’re showing. Usually, your GP will give you topical corticosteroids, or antifungal medications if the cause of balanitis is fungal.

Which doctor should I talk to?

A specialist urologist can diagnose and treat balanitis.

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