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Inflammation of the Penis

by Patrick J. Shenot, MD

The foreskin of the penis and the glans penis (the cone-shaped end of the penis) can be inflamed.

  • Balanitis is inflammation of the glans penis.

  • Posthitis is inflammation of the foreskin.

  • Balanoposthitis is inflammation of both the glans penis and the foreskin.

Inflammation of the penis can be caused by infections, such as yeast infections, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and scabies. Noninfectious causes include skin disorders, including allergic reactions (for example, to a latex condom or to birth control liquids or gels), lichen planus, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and balanitis xerotica obliterans. The inflammation causes pain, itching, redness, and swelling. Sores on the penis and swollen lymph nodes in the groin can develop.

Balanoposthitis often begins with balanitis. It develops more often if the foreskin is tight or if a man has diabetes mellitus. Men who develop balanoposthitis have an increased chance of later developing phimosis and paraphimosis (problems related to the foreskin) and penile cancer.

Diagnosis is usually by physical examination. Blood sugar may be measured to test for diabetes, and tests for yeast infections and STDs may be done. The cause of inflammation is treated. Good hygiene is important.