Posthitis is inflammation of the foreskin. Foreskin is the thin layer of skin on the penis head/glans. Posthitis is most often caused due to bacterial or fungal infection. The cause of infection can be due to improper hygiene, having unprotected sex etc. Treatment for posthitis addresses the root cause of the problem after diagnosis by a qualified sexologist or urologist.
Symptoms of posthitis include:
- Inflammation of the foreskin (swelling and redness)
- Itching and pain when moving it onto the back of the penis’ head or retracing it.
- Pain when urinating or having sex
- The area may be tender to touch.
Conditions similar to posthitis
Other conditions that can look like posthitis are:
Phimosis is a condition when a man is unable to pull the foreskin onto the back of penis’ forehead. This is also called ‘tight foreskin problem’. The foreskin in children starts retracting from the age of 2 to 6 years. Inability to move the foreskin freely on erect penis can result in pain/discomfort while having sex, retention of few drops of urine, formation of smegma leading to infection and stinking of penis or at times even smelly discharge etc.
Paraphimosis is the opposite condition of phimosis where the foreskin can’t be pulled back onto the penis’ head. This can cause swelling/inflammation of the penis forehead, blocking of blood flow to the glans and can become a medical emergency. Circumcision is usually a permanent solution for phimosis or Paraphimosis conditions when topical creams or ointments don’t help.
Balanitis refers to a condition where the penis’ glans is swollen. When the glans swells, the foreskin on it may not stretch enough causing pain and redness of the foreskin. Most often infection is the cause of balanitis and will be treated with antibiotics.
A combination of inflammation of the penis’ glans and the foreskin on it is termed as ‘balano posthitis’. Balano posthitis can occur in 6% of uncircumcised males.
Causes of posthitis
- Infection – Bacterial or fungal infection can lead to posthitis. The infection can originate from having unprotected sex (sexually transmitted infection such as Gonorrhea) or formation of smegma when the penis is not kept clean or when the faecal matter gets lodged in the foreskin. Regular washing of the penis with mild soap is important. The foreskin needs to be moved behind the penis’ head and the area should be washed every time during bath. Avoid using strong soaps or chemicals to clean the penis. Failure to maintain good hygiene of the penis can lead to build up of fluids from the body under the foreskin that can create a good environment for fungus to thrive leading to inflammation.
- Skin related problems such as psoriasis, eczema or dermatitis can cause inflammation of foreskin.
- Allergic reaction to latex condoms or the chemicals used in it or any climax delaying spray can also lead to posthitis.
Diagnosis and treatment of posthitis
Diagnosis of posthitis starts with a physical examination of the penis. The urologist or sexologist may use a cotton swab to clean the area and in some cases, the swab sample may be sent for testing to determine the type of infection. Urine test may also be done to check for the presence of bacteria in urine.
Treatment for posthitis includes administration of antibiotics if the doctor determines that the problem is due to infection. Antihistamine medicines may be given to reduce the symptoms of any allergic reaction. If the cause is due to dermatological issues, medication would be provided accordingly.
Inflammation of foreskin (posthitis) is not a medical emergency unless the problem doesn’t go away on it’s own in a week. If you are having pain during sex or urination or if you have any stink when you take out your penis or formation of yellowish white stuff under the foreskin in combination with swelling, you need to see a good sexologist near you. As a first aid step, you can wash your penis regularly and see if the symptoms subside; else, you need to see a doctor as soon as you can.