Balanitis is a skin irritation on the head of the penis that can affect men and boys.
It's not usually serious, but you should see your GP if you think you or your son has balanitis.
This page covers:
Balanitis affects the head of the penis and the foreskin.
It occurs far more often in men and boys who haven't been circumcised.
Some adults may also have a tight foreskin that won't pull back. This is a condition called phimosis.
You should see your GP if you think you've got balanitis just to make sure it isn’t a sign of something more serious like a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
You can also get yourself checked out at a sexual health clinic.
Your GP should be able to tell if you have balanitis by looking at your penis and asking a few questions.
If treatment doesn't start to work within seven days, your GP may suggest some tests to see if there's an infection or something more serious.
If your GP isn't sure what's causing your balanitis, they may refer you to:
Most cases of balanitis are easily treated with good hygiene and creams and ointments recommended by your GP.
If you have balanitis, you should clean your penis daily with lukewarm water and gently dry it.
Find out more about how to wash a penis.
Depending on what's causing the balanitis, your GP may recommend creams or ointments, such as:
See your GP if the treatment doesn't start to work within seven days. You may need another treatment or be advised to see a specialist.
Circumcision may be advised in rare cases where a child keeps getting balanitis.
You can have sex during treatment if your balanitis isn't caused by an infection.
But if it's caused by an infection, like an STI or thrush, there's a risk of passing this on.
Balanitis can be caused by:
You can reduce your chances of getting balanitis by:
Young boys may not yet be able to clean under their foreskin because it may not fully pull back yet.
Don't attempt to pull back a child's foreskin to clean under it if it's still fixed, as this can cause damage.