The foreskin of the penis and the glans penis (the cone-shaped end of the penis) can be inflamed.
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 balanitis xerotica obliterans. The inflammation causes pain, itching, redness, and swelling and can ultimately lead to a narrowing (stricture) of the urethra.
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 balanitis xerotica obliterans, phimosis, paraphimosis, 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.
Balanitis xerotica obliterans (also called lichen sclerosus et atrophicus) occurs when chronic inflammation causes the skin near the tip of the penis to harden and turn white. The opening of the urethra is often surrounded by this hard white tissue, which eventually blocks the flow of urine and semen. Antibacterial or anti-inflammatory creams may relieve the inflammation, but if the urethra must be reopened, it is done surgically.
Last full review/revision October 2008 by Paul D. Lui, MD