What is Balanitis

Balanitis is swelling and irritation (inflammation) of the head of the penis (glans penis). The condition may also cause inflammation of the skin around the glans penis (foreskin) in men who have not been circumcised.

It may develop because of an infection or another medical condition.

Balanitis occurs most often among men who have not had their foreskin removed (uncircumcisedmen). Balanitis sometimes causes scarring of the penis or foreskin, which can require surgery. Untreated balanitis can increase the risk of penile cancer.

What are the causes?

Common causes of this condition include:

  • Poor personal hygiene, especially in uncircumcised men. Not cleaning the glans penis and foreskin well can result in buildup of bacteria, viruses, and yeast, which can lead to infection and inflammation.
  • Irritation and lack of air flow due to fluid (smegma) that can build up on the glans penis.

Other causes include:

  • Chemical irritation from products such as soaps or shower gels (especially those that have fragrance), condoms, personal lubricants, petroleum jelly, spermicides, or fabric softeners.
  • Skin conditions, such as eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis.
  • Allergies to medicines, such as tetracycline and sulfa drugs.
  • Certain medical conditions, including liver cirrhosis, congestive heart failure, diabetes, and kidney disease.
  • Infections, such as candidiasis, HPV (human papillomavirus), herpes simplex, gonorrhea, and syphilis.
  • Severe obesity.

What increases the risk?

The following factors may make you more likely to develop this condition:

  • Having diabetes. This is the most common risk factor.
  • Having a tight foreskin that is difficult to pull back (retract) past the glans.
  • Having sexual intercourse without using a condom.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Discharge from under the foreskin.
  • A bad smell.
  • Pain or difficulty retracting the foreskin.
  • Tenderness, redness, and swelling of the glans.
  • A rash or sores on the glans or foreskin.
  • Itchiness.
  • Inability to get an erection due to pain.
  • Difficulty urinating.
  • Scarring of the penis or foreskin, in some cases.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed based on:

  • A physical exam.
  • Testing a swab of discharge to check for bacterial or fungal infection.
  • Blood tests:
    • To check for viruses that can cause balanitis.
    • To check your blood sugar (glucose) level. High blood glucose could be a sign of diabetes, which can cause balanitis.

How is this treated?

Treatment for balanitis depends on the cause. Treatment may include:

  • Improving personal hygiene. Your health care provider may recommend sitting in a bath of warm water that is deep enough to cover your hips and buttocks (sitz bath).
  • Medicines such as:
    • Creams or ointments to reduce swelling (steroids) or to treat an infection.
    • Antibiotic medicine.
    • Antifungal medicine.
  • Surgery to remove or cut the foreskin (circumcision). This may be done if you have scarring on the foreskin that makes it difficult to retract.
  • Controlling other medical problems that may be causing your condition or making it worse.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Do nothave sex until the condition clears up, or until your health care provider approves.
  • Keep your penis clean and dry. Take sitz baths as recommended by your health care provider.
  • Avoid products that irritate your skin or make symptoms worse, such as soaps and shower gels that have fragrance.
  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
    • If you were prescribed an antibiotic medicine or a cream or ointment, use it as told by your health care provider. Do notstop using your medicine, cream, or ointment even if you start to feel better.
    • Do notdrive or use heavy machinery while taking prescription pain medicine.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your symptoms get worse or do not improve with home care.
  • You develop chills or a fever.
  • You have trouble urinating.
  • You cannot retract your foreskin.

Get help right away if:

  • You develop severe pain.
  • You are unable to urinate.


  • Balanitis is inflammation of the head of the penis (glans penis) caused by irritation or infection.
  • Balanitis causes pain, redness, and swelling of the glans penis.
  • This condition is most common among uncircumcised men who do not keep their glans penis clean and in men who have diabetes.
  • Treatment may include creams or ointments.
  • Good hygiene is important for prevention. This includes pulling back the foreskin when washing your penis.

Balanitis, Infant

Balanitis is inflammation of the head of the penis (glans). It often appears with a diaper rash.

What are the causes?

This condition may be caused by:

  • Continued contact with urine, such as when a child sits in a wet diaper.
  • Cleaning products that are used in the diaper or diaper area.
  • Bacteria or yeast germs that are normally found in the diaper area.
  • Poor hygiene.
  • Pulling the foreskin back too forcefully.

What are the signs or symptoms?

The main symptom of this condition is redness and swelling of the tip of the penis. Other symptoms include:

  • Itching in the genital area.
  • Redness and swelling of the shaft of the penis.
  • Redness and swelling of the foreskin in babies who are not circumcised.
  • Pain with urination.
  • Pain when the diaper area is cleaned.
  • Discharge from the penis.
  • A rash in the groin.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed with a physical exam. If the area is infected, it may be swabbed so that any germs can be identified.

How is this treated?

Treatment for this condition depends on the cause. It may include:

  • Cleaning the area often.
  • Keeping the glans and foreskin dry.
  • Giving sitz baths.
  • Keeping the area from becoming irritated.
  • Medicine. You may need to give the medicine by mouth or apply the medicine to your baby’s skin.

Follow these instructions at home:


  • Give over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your child’s health care provider.
  • Apply ointment as told by your health care provider. If the ointment is an antibiotic ointment, apply it as told by your child’s health care provider. Do notstop applying the antibiotic ointment even if your child’s condition improves.


  • Use mild soap that has no perfume (is fragrance-free).
  • Give sitz baths as told by your child’s health care provider.

Other Instructions

  • Keep the area clean and dry.
  • Dry gently by blotting with a dry cloth.
  • Change your baby’s diapers as soon as they are wet.
  • Allow for some diaper-free time as much as possible until healed.
  • Do notuse diaper wipes until this problem goes away. Use warm water instead.
  • If you use cloth diapers, use a mild detergent and do notuse bleach until the skin has healed. It may be best to switch to disposable diapers until the condition clears up.
  • Avoid rubbing the red areas.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • The redness and swelling are not better in 2–3 days.
  • The problem comes back after it improved.
  • The redness and swelling get worse.
  • Your child has a fever.

Get help right away if:

  • Your child who is younger than 3 months has a temperature of 100°F (38°C) or higher.
  • Your child has symptoms for more than 72 hours.
  • Your child’s symptoms suddenly get worse.
  • Pus is coming from the tip of your child’s penis.
  • Your child cannot urinate.

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