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DocSpot: Circumcision

Dear Dr Margaret
My husband is 26 years old. He has a tight foreskin that covers the head of his penis. I have suggested he should see a doctor, but he is very embarrassed to even talk about it. He has had this problem since childhood. Is circumcision safe for him at this age? What are the side effects?

He does need to see a doctor to discuss the situation, and he should not feel embarrassed to do so. Doctors are dealing with these sorts of problems all the time. Perhaps he would feel more comfortable talking to a doctor in a genitourinary medicine clinic; in the UK and many other countries, you can go to a genitourinary medicine clinic without a referral from your family doctor.
The doctor will examine your husband and discuss whether circumcision (removal of the foreskin) is necessary. Instead, a lesser procedure known as preputioplasty might be appropriate. This involves making a vertical incision in the foreskin and then stitching it crossways to widen the opening; it usually leaves a very normal appearance. Sometimes men are able to solve the problem over a few months by simply stretching their own foreskin. The doctor will also check for a condition called ‘balanitis xerotica obliterans’, which causes tightness of the foreskin, although this would be unusual at his young age and if he has always had the problem.
Circumcision can certainly be done in adults. It is usually a safe procedure but, like any operation, problems such as haemorrhage or infection sometimes occur. The head of the penis may be oversensitive for a few weeks afterwards. As you probably know, most men have erections during their sleep, so for a few weeks after the operation he may wake in the middle of the night with a sore penis; pain-relief medication at bedtime will help.

Last updated; Sunday, August 30th 2020

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