What is balanitis?
Balanitis is an inflammation of the glans (end of the penis). It’s a common condition that occurs in boys and men of all ages.
Symptoms of balanitis
The most common symptoms is the presence of redness on the tip of the penis. A whitish discharge and discomfort may also be present. Uncircumcised men may also have difficulty moving their foreskin. In more serious cases, affected men may have difficulty urinating or controlling the flow during urination.
Causes and risk factors
There are many causes of balanitis.
- Improper hygiene in uncircumcised men is often a cause. In this case, the folds of uncircumcised men attract heat and humidity, which can promote the growth of organisms normally present on the skin. These organisms are of a fungal nature (fungus), such as Candida albicans. This fungus is also frequently the cause of yeast vaginitis in woman.
- Balanitis can also be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Transmission could then take place during sexual intercourse.
- An allergic reaction (contact dermatitis) can also be the cause of balanitis. This may be due to a reaction to soap, laundry detergent or even latex from condoms.
- Poorly-controlled diabetes is often the cause of cases of balanitis. Persistent hyperglycemia can reduce the body's ability to fight off microorganisms.
- Other conditions, to a lesser extent, may contribute to the development of balanitis, such as penile cancer, congestive heart failure, cirrhosis or morbid obesity.
How is balanitis treated ?
If you think you have balanitis you should see a healthcare professional. Upon examination, the doctor will be able to determine if this is what you are suffering from. In order to better determine the treatment, the doctor may take a sample to find out more precisely which microorganism is involved (a virus, bacteria or fungus) and thus choose the best possible treatment. A topical treatment targeting the specific microorganism may then be prescribed. If balanitis is recurrent and is associated with phimosis (the tightness of the foreskin preventing it from moving to uncover the glans), circumcision may be an option to consider.
In addition, if the patient has diabetes, the doctor will be able to check whether his blood sugar levels are well controlled. If not, the diabetes medication will need to be adjusted.
The key to prevention is to maintain impeccable hygiene of male private areas. Every day, men should ensure they thoroughly cleanse the glans under the foreskin with water and mild soap and dry the skin properly. Since balanitis could be caused by an allergic reaction to soap, consider cleaning only with water if this is the case. If balanitis is related to an allergic reaction to a latex condom, it is recommended to substitute for non-latex condoms.
In diabetics, controlling the blood sugar is also a way to prevent balanitis.
If in doubt or if you have any questions, do not hesitate to consult your healthcare professional.