Posthitis is a medical term that refers to inflammation of the foreskin on the penis. It is most often caused by a bacterial or fungal infection, though inflammation and irritation may also occur because of physical trauma or excessive rubbing on clothes. Most instances of posthitis are accompanied by balanitis, which is an inflamed, irritated glans penis. The condition can affect males of all ages, though it is most common in boys under the age of ten, whose foreskins cannot fully retract. Doctors usually treat posthitis with prescription oral antibiotics and topical creams to reduce pain and inflammation.
Inflammation can occur when bacteria or fungi like yeast get trapped underneath the foreskin. This is often due to poor hygiene, though some men are more prone to developing infections than others due to faulty immune systems. The foreskin of an individual under the age of ten is usually not able to retract completely, so thorough cleaning is often not possible. Sexual activity can lead to posthitis as well, especially if a man's partner is suffering from an active yeast infection or a sexually transmitted disease. Occasionally, tight-fitting clothing or trauma to the penis results in irritation that develops into posthitis and balanitis.
The symptoms of the condition may include mild to severe pain, discomfort when urinating, and erectile dysfunction. A serious viral or bacterial infection may cause a person to feel nauseated and fatigued as well. In many cases, the symptoms of posthitis can be treated at home by taking extra care to wash the foreskin and glans penis with mild soap and water, wearing loose clothing, and taking over-the-counter medications to relieve discomfort. Anyone experiencing severe or persistent symptoms should visit his doctor to determine the exact cause of the condition and obtain the best treatment.
A doctor usually performs a physical examination, asks questions about a patient's medical history, and takes blood and urine samples to test for underlying conditions. If the cause is found to be bacterial, the physician may prescribe oral antibiotics and suggest routine cleaning of the area with mild soap. A fungal infection may require the application of topical anti-fungal creams, which eliminate fungus and provide relief from inflammation and pain. Individuals who seek treatment usually experience full recoveries in less than one month.
Doctors often encourage people who are prone to inflammation to take careful preventative measures. These may involve avoiding sexual contact with individuals who have infections or contagious diseases, maintaining good hygiene, and scheduling regular appointments with a dermatologist or urologist. A doctor may suggest circumcision if preventative measures and treatments are ineffective at providing long-term relief.