Balanitis: inflammation of the head of the penis

Balanitis is inflammation of the head of the penis (also known as the glans).When the foreskin is also inflamed, it is called balanoposthitis. Balanitis and balanoposthitis occur mainly in uncircumcised males.

Balanitis is a disease that affects about 11% of penile adults and 4% of penile children. It is most common in people over the age of 40, although it can occur at any age.

This article describes the symptoms, causes, and complications of balanitis and balanoposthitis. It also provides an overview of treatment options.

Balanitis symptoms

Balanitis and balanoposthitis can cause the following symptoms:

  • redness, swelling, and tenderness of the penis
  • thick secretions under the foreskin (called smegma)
  • subcutaneous hemorrhage
  • a stench
  • itching
  • Painful urination


Symptoms of balanitis include pain, redness, and a foul-smelling discharge under the foreskin. There may also be itching, bleeding, and pain when urinating.


Although rare, balanitis and balanoposthitis can lead to complications that affect urinary and sexual function. This is especially true if the condition is severe or recurring.

Possible complications include:

  • dry balanitis obliterans (BXO): A progressive skin disorder that causes hardening of the glans and foreskin
  • fleshy narrow: Abnormal narrowing of the urethra (the passage through which urine exits the body)
  • phimosis: Inability to pull the foreskin over the glans penis
  • phimosis: Unable to retract the foreskin

Balanitis is also associated with a threefold increased risk of penile cancer.


In rare cases, balanitis can result in an inability to retract the foreskin (phimosis) or pull it back into the head of the penis (phimosis). Severe or recurrent balanitis can cause changes in the penis that interfere with urination or sex. It also increases the risk of penile cancer.

What you should know about penile cancer


The exact cause of balanitis and balanoposthitis is often unclear. Poor hygiene is considered an important factor.

In people with foreskin, the buildup of smegma can cause an inflammatory response that leads to swelling and redness. The warmth and moisture under the foreskin also provides the perfect environment for bacterial and fungal infections.

Risk factors for balanitis include:

  • foreskin
  • poor penis hygiene
  • Soap or body wash
  • Strong detergent and fabric softener
  • Excessive cleaning of the penis
  • physical friction
  • spermicidal lubricant
  • diabetes
  • antibiotic use
  • Allergies (such as allergies to latex condoms)


Infections, whether viral, bacterial or fungal, can lead to balanitis and balanoposthitis. These include:

  • Penile Thrush: Yeast Infection Caused by Fungus Candida albicans
  • STDs: including chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis
  • Staphylococcus aureus: Bacteria commonly associated with skin infections
  • Streptococcus pyogenes: Bacteria associated with strep throat


Balanitis is primarily associated with poor hygiene in uncircumcised men. Other contributing factors include harsh soaps or detergents, spermicidal lubricants, and excessive washing. Penile thrush, STDs, and other infections can also cause balanitis.


It is important to seek medical attention if you develop signs and symptoms of balanitis. If left untreated, balanitis can lead to complications such as excessive foreskin.

Treatment options include:

  • Improve hygiene: use water and mild soap, not harsh cleaners
  • Avoid irritants: including harsh soaps and spermicidal lubricants
  • Oral or topical antibiotics: used to treat bacterial infections
  • Topical Antifungals: Standard Treatment for Penile Thrush
  • Diabetes Management: If Diabetes is a Contributing Factor
  • Circumcision: may be recommended in cases of recurrent balanitis or phimosis or phimosis


Treatment for balanitis includes improving hygiene and avoiding irritants. Infections can be treated with antibiotics or antifungals. Circumcision may be recommended for recurrent balanitis or if there is phimosis or phimosis.


Balanitis is inflammation of the head of the penis. Symptoms include redness, swelling, itching, and a foul-smelling discharge under the foreskin. In rare cases, balanitis can lead to phimosis (inability to retract the foreskin) or prepuce (inability to pull the foreskin back to the head of the penis).

Balanitis mainly affects people with an uncircumcised penis. Poor hygiene, diabetes, harsh soaps and detergents, and bacterial or fungal infections can all play a role.

Treatment for balanitis varies depending on the cause. Treatment options include antibiotics, antifungals, and, in severe or recurrent cases, circumcision. Good penis hygiene is also important.