What is balanitis?

Balanitis is an inflammation of the head of the penis

Written by spunout


Balanitis is an inflammation of the head of the penis, and often, the foreskin. It is very common, and it is estimated that 1 in 10 men who visit a sexual health clinic have balanitis.

How do you get balanitis?

Balanitis is caused by a fungus. This can develop because of:

  • Failing to wash the penis
  • Not drying the penis properly after washing
  • Using perfumed shower gels or soaps that irritate the penis
  • Weakened immune system (sometimes as a result of HIV or diabetes)
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including genital herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhoea

How do I know if I have it?

You must be diagnosed by a doctor or sexual health clinic.

Symptoms of balanitis include:

  • Red skin around the head of the penis
  • Swelling of the head of the penis
  • Pain and itchiness around the head of the penis
  • An unpleasant odour
  • Thick discharge under the foreskin
  • Pain when peeing
  • Pain during sex

If you experiencing any of these symptoms, you should go to your GP or a sexual health clinic. You can find a list of free sexual health clinics here.

How to treat balanitis

If you experiencing symptoms of balanitis, you should go to your doctor of an STI clinic. Balanitis is usually treated with an over-the-counter cream that you apply to the affected areas. You usually do not require a prescription for this.  

In case of infection, you will be prescribed antibiotics.

How to prevent balanitis

Some tips that can help prevent balanitis include:

  • Regularly washing your penis and under the foreskin with warm water when you shower
  • Avoiding using perfumed or scented shower gels or soaps on your penis
  • Completely drying the penis after you shower
  • Using a condom every time you have sex

Find out what to expect when visiting an STI clinic here.

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