Balanitis is a treatable condition that commonly affects uncircumcised males. This leads to inflammation and pain in the head of the penis. Studies indicate that up to 10% of males will have balanitis during their lifetime. If the head of your penis is painful, you might have balanitis, and this article will help you learn about the condition in detail.
What is balanitis?
Balanitis is when the glans or the head of the penis becomes inflamed. This is primarily the result of infection. Balanitis is non-contagious and is generally caused by a fungal/yeast infection. However, it can arise as a result of bacterial or viral infection. The condition predominantly affects uncircumcised males.
Types of balanitis
Balanitis is mainly divided into three types:
Balanitis (Zoon’s balanitis): This is the most commonly reported type of balanitis. Symptoms include a red and inflamed penis head. Generally, uncircumcised, middle-aged men are affected by this condition.
Circinate balanitis: This type of balanitis results from reactive arthritis. Reactive arthritis develops in response to an infection in the body which can sometimes lead to inflammation of the head of the penis. Circinate balanitis causes sores to expand on the penis head.
Pseudoepitheliomatous keratotic and micaceous balanitis: This rare form of balanitis affects men over 60. Symptoms include scaly warts on the glans.
Symptoms of balanitis
Balanitis symptoms can appear suddenly or develop over some time. These include:
- Pain on the head of the penis.
- Irritation on the head of the penis.
- Foul odor.
- Painful urination.
- Red patches or red spots on the penis are commonly termed as balanitis penis.
- Itching under the foreskin.
- Areas of white skin on the penis.
- White discharge under the foreskin.
- Sores on the head of the penis.
Causes of balanitis
Poor hygiene is the most common cause of balanitis in uncircumcised males.Other causes include:
- Genital yeast infection.
- Sexually transmitted infections.
- Sensitivity to harsh soaps or chemicals.
- Skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema that lead to itchy, dry and scaly skin.
- Reactive arthritis
- Trauma on the tip of the penis or foreskin.
Who is affected by balanitis?
Balanitis affects uncircumcised males. This is because the moist, warm area under the foreskin is ideal for yeast and bacteria to grow. Although it can occur at any age and is more common in males with phimosis. Men who are more prone to develop balanitis include:
- Practice poor hygiene.
- Belong to middle-aged.
- Have diabetes
- Have a sensitivity to chemical irritants.
- Are obese.
- Have sexually transmitted infections.
How is balanitis diagnosed?
Balanitis can easily be diagnosed during a physical examination. The visible symptoms are mostly obvious. Although, further tests may be required to ascertain the cause. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may order the following tests:
- a urethral swab to rule out STIs and other infections
- urinalysis to check for diabetes or infection
- blood tests to check for infections or any other conditions
- a skin scraping sample to check for mites under a microscope
If you have symptoms such as red spots under the foreskin not itchy or balanitis bumps or balanitis spots, you shoud consult a doctor for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Things you can do if you have balanitis
To ease penis skin irritation and symptoms of balanitis in men, you can try the following measures:
- Practice proper hygiene, take a bath every day, wash your penis and make sure to pull your foreskin back and clean from underneath.
- Avoid using harsh soap or lotions that can irritate the skin.
- After urinating, ensure that you dry the area under the foreskin.
How long does balanitis last?
Balanitis can be cured in a few days with treatment, or it may take up to 2 weeks for the symptoms to resolve. In addition, proper hygiene helps prevent the problem from recurring.
How to treat balanitis?
The treatment for balanitis depends on the underlying cause. Over-the-counter treatment for balanitis, such as terrasil balanitis, can help resolve the symptoms in some cases. Other treatment options include:
- Antifungal creams: If a yeast infection causes balanitis, an antifungal cream such as clotrimazole helps treat the condition. You must apply the cream to the glans and foreskin as prescribed.
- Antibiotics: If a sexually transmitted infection is causing your symptoms, the condition is treated with antibiotics. The antibiotic is prescribed according to the type of infection.
- Good genital hygiene: Washing and drying the area under your foreskin often reduces the chances of recurrence.
- Diabetes control: If you have diabetes, managing the condition will eventually reduce the chances of recurrence.
- Circumcision: In case of recurring symptoms of balanitis, your doctor may recommend circumcision. Circumcision is a procedure in where the foreskin covering the penis is removed.
How to tell if balanitis is fungal or bacterial?
The doctor may prescribe an antifungal medication if a yeast or fungal infection causes penis irritation. Symptoms comprise burning and itching around the penis head. If the infection is bacterial, the doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics. Lesions on the head of the penis can indicate a bacterial infection.
What can you do to prevent balanitis?
Practising proper hygiene can help to prevent balanitis. For example, bathing often and cleaning the foreskin properly help ensure recurrence. Moreover, using a condom when having sex helps prevent the transmission of a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to balanitis.
What are the complications associated with balanitis?
Untreated balanitis can cause chronic inflammation giving rise to the following conditions:
- Lichen sclerosus: Also referred to as balanitis xerotica obliterans (BXO), lichen sclerosus presents as white, hard patches form on the skin. This condition may cause an interruption to the flow of urine and semen through the urethra.
- Scar tissue: Long-term balanitis can lead to scarring around the glans. This can make the foreskin too tight to be retracted back over the head. This is also called phimosis.
- Ulcerative lesions: Balanitis can result in the formation of painful sores and blisters. These may eventually ulcerate and bleed. Open sores put the body at an increased risk of bacteria and viruses into the body.
- Increased risk of cancer: Chronic inflammation increases the risk of different types of cancer. According to studies, BXO, balanitis, posthitis, and phimosis are associated with a higher incidence of penile cancer.
Balanitis vs Herpes
Balanitis lesions are typically not filled with fluid. They appear as tiny red bumps with occasional ulceration. In contrast, herpes lesions are flesh-colored. Mostly, they appear as fluid-filled blisters or crusted sores. Genital herpes can present with systemic symptoms such as lymph node enlargement. Furthermore, balanitis can lead to a thick white discharge under the foreskin.
When to Consult a Doctor for Balanitis?
Most men with balanitis recover entirely with the proper treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of balanitis, consult with our doctor at Your Doctors Online and start treatment right away.
FAQs About Balanitis Answered by Your Doctors Online Team
The doctor may prescribe an antifungal medication if a yeast or fungal infection causes penis irritation. Symptoms comprise burning and itching around the penis head. If the condition is bacterial, the doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics. Lesions on the head of the penis can indicate a bacterial infection.
Balanitis can be cured in a few days with treatment, or it may take up to 2 weeks for the symptoms to resolve.
Symptoms of balanitis include:
Pain and irritation on the head of the penis.
Red patches or redness on the penis are commonly termed balanitis penis.
Itching under the foreskin.
Areas of white skin on the penis.
White discharge under the foreskin.
Sores on the head of the penis.