Red, sore and itchy penis
- It may simply be a hygiene problem. If you do not wash under the foreskin, a cheesy material, called smegma, accumulates. This can become infected and cause irritation. The solution is to wash carefully with warm water to which you have added enough kitchen salt to make it taste like seawater. In part 1 of Dr Phil Hammond's penis trilogy, he discusses the head of the penis and foreskin, and how to keep it clean. Click on the video below to find out more.
- A milder form of balanitis can appear soon after intercourse, but disappears within about a day. This is probably caused by allergy to thrush in your partner’s vagina. If she is treated the problem will usually go.
- Balanitis can sometimes be caused by a skin disease, such as psoriasis. Psoriasis can occur on the penis without you having it anywhere else. On the glans, it looks red and shiny (unlike on other parts of the body where it is silvery and scaly). In this situation antifungal treatment will not have any effect, but your doctor can prescribe a steroid cream.
- Check your soaps and shower gels. Balanitis can sometimes be a sensitivity to perfumes in soaps and detergents. Never put disinfectant in the bath, as this can be very irritating.
- If your penis is swollen, intensely itchy and very red, you probably have thrush (also known as Candida, a yeast). Occasionally this can be the first sign of diabetes, so check with your doctor. It is cured with antifungal cream or tablets.
What to do about balanitis
- Change to a simple, unperfumed soap. Alternatively, buy ‘aqueous cream’ from a pharmacy and use it as body-wash cream (i.e. apply a small amount and rinse off).
- Put two handfuls of salt in the bath, but no other additives (no bubble bath, no bath oils, no disinfectants)
- Do not use ‘biological’ or ‘enzyme’ powders when washing your underpants
- Ask your partner to visit her doctor or a genitourinary medicine clinic to check for thrush (especially if your balanitis occurs after sex)
- See your doctor – if your balanitis is severe, ask for a diabetes check; if anti-thrush treatment does not work, ask your doctor if it could be psoriasis.
Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Thursday, October 15th 2015
In part 1 of Dr Phil Hammond's penis trilogy, he discusses the head of the penis and foreskin, how to keep it clean, and what to do if the foreskin is tight. Click on the video below to find out more.
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