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Inflammation of the glans penis and the preputial mucosa.jpg
Inflammation of the glans penis and the preputial mucosa of a circumcised penis (balanitis)
Balanitis caused by smegma

Balanitis is inflammation of the glans penis.[1] When the foreskin is also affected, the proper term is balanoposthitis.[1] Balanitis on boys still in diapers must be distinguished from redness caused by ammoniacal dermatitis.[2] The word balanitis is from the Greek βάλανος balanos, literally meaning 'acorn', used because of the similarity in shape to the glans penis.[3]

Signs and symptoms[edit]

  • Small red erosions on the glans (first sign)
  • Redness of the foreskin
  • Redness of the penis
  • Other rashes on the head of the penis
  • Foul smelling discharge
  • Painful foreskin and penis


Recurrent bouts of balanitis may cause scarring of the preputial orifice; the reduced elasticity may lead to pathologic phimosis.[4] Further complications may include:


Inflammation has many possible causes, including irritation by environmental substances, physical trauma, and infection such as bacterial, viral, or fungal.[5][6] Some of these infections are sexually transmitted diseases.

It is less common among people who are circumcised, as in many cases, a dysfunction of the foreskin is a causal or contributing factor.[1] Both not enough cleaning and too much cleaning can cause problems.[1] Diabetes can make balanitis more likely, especially if the blood sugar is poorly controlled.[7]

It is important to exclude other causes of similar symptoms such as penile cancer.[1]


Diagnosis may include careful identification of the cause with the aid of a good patient history, swabs and cultures, and pathological examination of a biopsy.[5]



Initial treatment in adults often involves simply pulling back the foreskin and cleaning the penis.[1] However, some topical antibiotic and fungal ointments may be used for treatment for mild cases. Depending upon severity, hydrocortisone and other steroidal creams may be used upon consultation.


Balanitis "is a common condition affecting 11% of adult men seen in urology clinics and 3% of children" in the United States; globally, balanitis "may occur in up to 3% of uncircumcised males".[14]

Other animals[edit]

Prepuce of a dog affected by balanoposthitis

In dogs, balanoposthitis is caused by a disruption in the integumentary system, such as a wound or intrusion of a foreign body. A dog with this condition behaves normally, with the exception of excessive licking at the prepuce, and a yellow green, pus-like discharge is usually present.

In sheep (rams/wethers), ulcerative enzootic balanoposthitis is caused by the Corynebacterium renale group (C. renale, C. pilosum & C. cystidis).

For the condition in bulls, caused by a virus see Bovine herpesvirus 1.

Balanoposthitis is believed to have contributed to the decline to near-extinction of Gilbert's potoroo.[15]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Edwards, SK; Bunker, CB; Ziller, F; van der Meijden, WI (August 2014). "2013 European guideline for the management of balanoposthitis". International Journal of STD & AIDS. 25 (9): 615–26. doi:10.1177/0956462414533099. PMID 24828553. S2CID 127341.
  2. ^ Simpson ET, Barraclough P (1998). "The management of the paediatric foreskin". Aust Fam Physician. 27 (5): 381–3. PMID 9613002.
  3. ^ βάλανος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  4. ^ Phimosis at eMedicine
  5. ^ a b Edwards S (1996). "Balanitis and balanoposthitis: a review". Genitourin Med. 72 (3): 155–9. doi:10.1136/sti.72.3.155. PMC 1195642. PMID 8707315.
  6. ^ Cleveland Clinic: Penile Disorders
  7. ^ Balanitis. Health Line. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  8. ^ a b Keogh G. Balanitis circumscripta plasmacellularis at eMedicine
  9. ^ Pellicé i Vilalta C, Casalots i Casado J, Cosme i Jiménez MA (1999). "[Zoon's balanoposthitis. A preliminary note]". Arch. Esp. Urol. (in Spanish). 52 (1): 69–72. PMID 10101891.
  10. ^ Buechner SA (2002). "Common skin disorders of the penis". BJU Int. 90 (5): 498–506. doi:10.1046/j.1464-410X.2002.02962.x. PMID 12175386. S2CID 45605100.
  11. ^ Baldwin HE, Geronemus RG (1989). "The treatment of Zoon's balanitis with the carbon dioxide laser". The Journal of Dermatologic Surgery and Oncology. 15 (5): 491–4. doi:10.1111/j.1524-4725.1989.tb03407.x. PMID 2497162.
  12. ^ Albertini JG, Holck DE, Farley MF (2002). "Zoon's balanitis treated with Erbium:YAG laser ablation". Lasers Surg Med. 30 (2): 123–6. doi:10.1002/lsm.10037. PMID 11870791. S2CID 33098632.
  13. ^ Retamar RA, Kien MC, Chouela EN (2003). "Zoon's balanitis: presentation of 15 patients, five treated with a carbon dioxide laser". Int. J. Dermatol. 42 (4): 305–7. doi:10.1046/j.1365-4362.2003.01304.x. PMID 12694501. S2CID 21305117.
  14. ^ Balanitis at eMedicine
  15. ^ Vaughan-Higgins, Rebecca; Buller, Nicky; Friend, J. Anthony; Robertson, Ian; Monaghan, Cree L.; Fenwick, Stan; Warren, Kristin (2011). "Balanoposthitis, Dyspareunia, and Treponema in the Critically Endangered Gilbert's Potoroo (Potorous gilbertii)". Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 47 (4): 1019–1025. doi:10.7589/0090-3558-47.4.1019. PMID 22102677. S2CID 7279808.

Further reading[edit]

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External resources