What is Phimosis?

Phimosis is a disorder in which the skin of your foreskin becomes so tight that it stops you from being capable of retracting or pulling it back. This can be seen in infants and young boys who have not been circumcised. It usually goes away on its own after age 3.

There are two types of phimosis: physiological (congenital) and pathological. Pathological phimosis requires treatment. Physiological phimosis is not treatable.

Signs and symptoms

Phimosis is a problem with the foreskin, which covers the head of the penis (glans) and can cause pain or swelling when you urinate. It can also lead to urinary tract infection in adults, and can interfere with healthy erections.

Most children develop phimosis during natural development. It usually goes away within 5-7 years, but some boys may take longer.

There are two types of phimosis: physiologic and pathologic Phimosis. The physiologic form of phimosis occurs in Uncircumcised male males and is caused by the separation of the prepuce from the penis or foreskin over time.

In a pathological phimosis, the foreskin is unable to separate from the prepuce. This is caused by scarring or inflammation. It is more prevalent among older boys. It can be a sign that the boy has balanitis, eczema or another skin condition, such as psoriasis or even lichenplanus.


The diagnosis of phimosis can be made through a thorough physical exam and medical history. If the doctor suspects that there is an infection, they will take a swab of the foreskin and may also order urine tests and blood test to check for bacteria.

The symptoms of phimosis in children tend to be mild and resolve on their own after they are a few years old. If the foreskin has been pulled back and the penis head is stuck in this position (paraphimosis), then it may be painful.

Pathologic phimosis can manifest in both adults and infants with skin conditions that affect the foreskin or the glans. These include psoriasis, eczema, lichen planus and lichen sclerosis.

The condition is more common in men who are not circumcised and is treated with gentle manual retraction. Smegma is a group of skin cells which help to isolate the foreskin from the head of the penis during retraction.


There are a variety of treatments for phimosis. They include the use of creams with steroid ingredients or circumcision, which involves removing the foreskin (circumcision).

In a majority of cases, phimosis in children can be resolved on its own when their foreskin becomes loose and can be pulled back. However when a child is suffering from phimosis that isn’t clearing up, or if they experience other issues with their hygiene or urination it is recommended that they see a doctor.

The doctor will examine your son to determine the source of phimosis, and then prescribe the appropriate treatment. For instance, if the reason for phimosis is a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe antifungal ointments or antibiotics.

In certain older men and boys, phimosis will not disappear by itself, and corrective surgery (circumcision) is required. Circumcision also decreases the risk of phimosis returning in the future. It is crucial to keep the wound clean and dry.

The following is a list of preventatives.

Prevention of phimosis requires good hygiene and maintaining the skin beneath the foreskin free of infection. Cleaning the penis with warm water gently each day can help prevent problems.

Physicologic phimosis is treatable without risk using a topical steroid creams such as 1% to 2.5% hydrocortisone ointment. A course of treatment lasting three to six weeks is generally enough.

If the condition is not resolved then a surgical procedure referred to as circumcision might be needed. The procedure can be complete or partial or a combination of both.

Most often, circumcision is performed on children. However, it may be recommended for men over the age of 40 or who have phimosis which doesn’t improve. It’s typically a last resort and can lead to dangerous complications. Therefore, it is crucial to think about the risks of this surgery before deciding to have it. It is recommended to discuss the reasons for and against circumcision with your doctor before making a decision. It’s important to get screened for phimosis every year, regardless of your age.

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