> Table of Contents > Balanitis, Phimosis, and Paraphimosis
Balanitis, Phimosis, and Paraphimosis
James P. Miller, MD
image BASICS
  • Balanitis:
    • An inflammation of the glans penis
    • Posthitis is an inflammation of the foreskin.
    • Balanitis xerotica obliterans (BXO) is lichen sclerosus of the glans penis (uncommon).
  • Phimosis and paraphimosis:
    • Phimosis: tightness of the distal penile foreskin that prevents it from being drawn back from over the glans
    • Paraphimosis: constriction by foreskin of an uncircumcised penis, preventing the foreskin from returning to its position over the glans; occurs after the retracted foreskin becomes swollen and engorged; a urologic emergency
  • System(s) affected: renal/urologic; reproductive; skin/exocrine
  • Balanitis: predominant age: adult; predominant gender: male only
  • Phimosis/paraphimosis: predominant age: infancy and adolescence; unusual in adults; risk returns in geriatrics; predominant sex: male only
Balanitis: will affect 3-11% of males
Phimosis: in the United States: 8% of boys age 6 years and 1% of men >16 years of age (1)
  • Balanitis:
    • Allergic reaction (condom latex, contraceptive jelly)
    • Infections (Candida albicans, Borrelia vincentii, streptococci, Trichomonas, HPV)
    • Fixed-drug eruption (sulfa, tetracycline)
    • Plasma cell infiltration (Zoon balanitis)
    • Autodigestion by activated pancreatic transplant exocrine enzymes
  • Phimosis:
    • Physiologic: present at birth; resolves spontaneously during the first 2 to 3 years of life through nocturnal erections, which slowly dilate the phimotic ring
    • Acquired: recurrent inflammation, trauma, or infections of the foreskin
  • Paraphimosis:
    • Often iatrogenically or inadvertently induced by the foreskin not being pulled back over the glans after voiding, cleaning, cystoscopy, or catheter insertion
Geriatric Considerations
Condom catheters can predispose to balanitis.
Pediatric Considerations
Oral antibiotics predispose male infants to Candida balanitis. Inappropriate care of physiologic phimosis can lead to acquired phimosis by repeated forced reduction of the foreskin.
  • Balanitis:
    • Presence of foreskin
    • Morbid obesity
    • Poor hygiene
    • Diabetes; probably most common
    • Nursing home environment
    • Condom catheters
    • Chemical irritants
    • Edematous conditions: CHF, nephrosis
  • Phimosis:
    • Poor hygiene
    • Diabetes by repeated balanitis
    • Frequent diaper rash in infants
    • Recurrent posthitis
  • Paraphimosis:
    • Presence of foreskin
    • Inexperienced health care provider (leaving foreskin retracted after catheter placement)
    • Poor education about care of the foreskin
  • Balanitis:
    • Proper hygiene and avoidance of allergens
    • Circumcision
  • Phimosis/paraphimosis:
    • If the patient is uncircumcised, appropriate hygiene and care of the foreskin are necessary to prevent phimosis and paraphimosis.
  • Balanitis:
    • Erythema
    • Tenderness
    • Edema
    • Discharge
    • Ulceration
    • Plaque
  • Phimosis:
    • Foreskin will not retract.
    • Secondary balanitis
    • Physiologic phimosis—preputial orifice appears normal and healthy
    • Pathologic phimosis—preputial orifice has fine white fibrous ring of scar
  • Paraphimosis:
    • Edema of prepuce and glans
    • Drainage
    • Ulceration
  • Balanitis:
    • Leukoplakia
    • Lichen planus
    • Psoriasis
    • Reiter syndrome
    • Lichen sclerosus et atrophicus
    • Erythroplasia of Queyrat
    • BXO: atrophic changes at end of foreskin; can form band that prevents retraction
  • Phimosis/paraphimosis:
    • Penile lymphedema, which can be related to insect bites, trauma, or allergic reactions
    • Penile tourniquet syndrome: foreign body around penis, most commonly hair
    • Anasarca
Initial Tests (lab, imaging)
  • Microbiology culture
  • Wet mount
  • Serology for syphilis
  • Serum glucose; ESR (if concerns about Reiter syndrome)
  • STD testing
  • HIV testing
  • Gram stain
Diagnostic Procedures/Other
Biopsy, if persistent
Pathologic Findings
Plasma cells infiltration with Zoon balanitis

  • Consider circumcision for recurrent balanitis and paraphimosis.
  • Warm compresses or sitz baths
  • Local hygiene
  • Balanitis:
    • Antifungal:
      • Clotrimazole (Lotrimin) 1% BID
      • Nystatin (Mycostatin) BID-QID
      • Fluconazole: 150 mg PO single dose
  • Antibacterial:
    • Bacitracin QID
    • Neomycin-polymyxin B-bacitracin (Neosporin) QID
    • If cellulitis, cephalosporin or sulfa drug PO or parenteral:
      • Dermatitis: topical steroids QID
      • Zoon balanitis: topical steroids QID
  • Phimosis:
    • 0.05% fluticasone propionate daily for 4 to 8 weeks with gradual traction placed on foreskin (2)[B]
    • 1% pimecrolimus BID for 4 to 6 weeks. Not for use in children <2 years (3)[C].
  • Paraphimosis:
    • Manual reduction, if possible (should be done with the patient sedated). Place the middle and index fingers of both hands on the engorged skin proximal to the glans. Place both thumbs on glans and, with gentle pressure, push on the glans and pull on the foreskin to attempt reduction. If unsuccessful, a dorsal slit will be necessary, with eventual circumcision after the edema resolves.
  • Osmotic agents: granulated sugar placed on edematous tissue for several hours to reduce edema
  • Puncture technique: Multiple punctures of foreskin with a 21-gauge needle will allow edematous fluid to escape and thus allow reduction.
  • Dorsal slit; done by surgeon or urologist
  • BXO:
    • 0.05% betamethasone BID
    • 0.1% tacrolimus BID
Recurrent infections or development of meatal stenosis
  • Balanitis and phimosis: Consider circumcision as preventive measure.
  • For paraphimosis:
    • Represents a true surgical emergency to avoid necrosis of glans
    • Dorsal slit with delayed circumcision, if reduction is not possible
    • Operative exploration if the possibility of penile tourniquet syndrome cannot be eliminated. Hair removal cream can be applied if a hair is thought to be the cause of the tourniquet.
Admission Criteria/Initial Stabilization
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Sepsis
Appropriate hygiene if condom catheters are used
Discharge Criteria
Resolution of problem
Patient Monitoring
  • Every 1 to 2 weeks until etiology has been established
  • Persistent balanitis may require biopsy to rule out malignancy or BXO.
  • Evaluation for resolution of phimosis
Weight reduction, if obese
  • Need for appropriate hygiene
  • Appropriate foreskin care
  • Avoidance of known allergens
  • No sexual activity for 2 to 3 weeks after circumcision
Should resolve with appropriate treatment
1. Oster J. Further fate of the foreskin. Incidence of preputial adhesions, phimosis, and smegma among Danish schoolboys. Arch Dis Child. 1968;43(228):200-203.
2. Zavras N, Christianakis E, Mpourikas D, et al. Conservative treatment of phimosis with fluticasone proprionate 0.05%: a clinical study in 1185 boys. J Pediatr Urol. 2009;5(3):181-185.
3. Georgala S, Gregoriou S, Georgala C, et al. Pimecrolimus 1% cream in non-specific inflammatory recurrent balanitis. Dermatology. 2007;215(3):209-212.
Additional Reading
  • Kiss A, Csontai A, Pirót L, et al. The response of balanitis xerotica obliterans to local steroid application compared with placebo in children. J Urol. 2001;165(1):219-220.
  • Palmer LS, Palmer JS. The efficacy of topical betamethasone for treating phimosis: a comparison of two treatment regimens. Urology. 2008;72(1):68-71.
  • Pandher BS, Rustin MH, Kaisary AV. Treatment of balanitis xerotica obliterans with topical tacrolimus. J Urol. 2003;170(3):923.
  • Stary A, Soeltz-Szoets J, Ziegler C, et al. Comparison of the efficacy and safety of oral fluconazole and topical clotrimazole in patients with candida balanitis. Genitourin Med. 1996;72(2):98-102.
See Also
Reactive Arthritis (Reiter Syndrome)
  • N48.1 Balanitis
  • N47.1 Phimosis
  • N48.0 Leukoplakia of penis
Clinical Pearls
  • Balanitis is an inflammation of the glans penis. Posthitis is an inflammation of the foreskin. BXO is lichen sclerosus of the glans penis.
  • With recurrent infections and a plaque, a biopsy should be done to rule out BXO or malignancy.
  • If there is a true phimosis that interferes with appropriate hygiene, treat the phimosis with steroids or circumcision to help with hygiene.