Balanoposthitis is a condition that affects the penis. It causes inflammation of the foreskin and glans. The foreskin, also known as the prepuce, is a fold of movable skin that covers the glans of the penis. The glans, or head, is the rounded tip of the penis.

Since the foreskin is removed during circumcision, balanoposthitis only affects uncircumcised males. It can appear at any age. It has many causes, but poor hygiene and a tight foreskin can make it easier to get balanoposthitis. Balanoposthitis is treatable.

Keep reading to understand the difference between balanoposthitis and other related conditions.

Balanoposthitis vs. phimosis vs. balanitis

Balanoposthitis is often confused with two similar conditions: phimosis and balanitis. All three conditions affect the penis. However, each condition affects a different part of the penis.

  • Phimosis is a condition that makes it difficult to retract the foreskin.
  • Balanitis is inflammation of the head of the penis.
  • Balanoposthitis is inflammation of both the penis head and the foreskin.

Phimosis can occur alongside either balanitis or balanoposthitis. In many cases, it acts as both a symptom and a cause. For example, having phimosis makes it easier to develop irritation of the glans and foreskin. Once this irritation occurs, symptoms such as pain and swelling may make it more difficult to retract the foreskin.

What causes it?

A number of factors can increase your risk of balanoposthitis. In people who have balanoposthitis, more than one cause is often identified.

Infections are among the most common causes of balanoposthitis. Infections that can cause balanoposthitis include:

  • penile yeast infections
  • chlamydia
  • fungal infections
  • gonorrhea
  • herpes simplex
  • human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • primary or secondary syphilis
  • trichomoniasis
  • chancroid

Penile yeast infections are among the most common causes of balanoposthitis. They’re caused by candida, a type of fungus that’s normally found in small quantities in the human body.

Noninfectious conditions can also increase your risk of balanoposthitis. Some of these conditions include:

  • chronic balanitis (balanitis xerotica obliterans)
  • eczema
  • injuries and accidents
  • irritation caused by rubbing or scratching
  • irritation from exposure to chemicals
  • psoriasis
  • reactive arthritis
  • tight foreskin

Everyday activities can also lead to balanoposthitis. For instance, exposure to chlorine in a swimming pool can cause penile irritation. In other cases, balanoposthitis will appear a few days after sexual intercourse and might be the result of rubbing or use of latex condoms.

Common symptoms

Signs of balanoposthitis appear near the penis head and foreskin and can range from mild to severe. They can make urinating or having sexual intercourse uncomfortable.

Common symptoms include:

  • pain, tenderness, and irritation
  • discolored or shiny skin
  • dry skin
  • itching or burning
  • thick, leathery skin (lichenification)
  • unusual discharge
  • tight foreskin (phimosis)
  • foul smell
  • skin erosion or lesions

The combination of symptoms usually depends on the cause of balanoposthitis. For example, balanoposthitis caused by a penile yeast infection might include symptoms such as itching, burning, and white discoloration around the penis head and foreskin.

How it’s diagnosed

“Balanoposthitis” isn’t really a diagnosis in and of itself. It’s a descriptive term associated with other conditions. If you’re experiencing irritation around the head or foreskin of your penis, a physician will try to identify the cause of the irritation.

You might need to see a doctor who specializes in urology (urologist) or skin conditions (dermatologist).

Your doctor might begin by asking you about your symptoms and examining your penis. They may take a swab sample from the head or foreskin to examine under a microscope. Depending on your symptoms, tests such as a blood test or a biopsy might also be necessary.

Your doctor will want to rule out other serious conditions, particularly if your symptoms are recurring or aren’t improving.

Treatment options

Treatment for balanoposthitis depends on the cause of irritation. Treating the underlying cause often clears up symptoms.

Sometimes, the cause of balanoposthitis is unknown. In these cases, treatments focus on minimizing discomfort during urination or sex.

Antibiotic and antifungal creams are common treatments. Corticosteroid creams may also be prescribed.

Making regular daily efforts to wash and dry the foreskin can sometimes prevent balanoposthitis. Conversely, avoiding soaps and other potential irritants is often recommended.

Balanoposthitis and diabetes

Research suggests that men who have (or have had) balanoposthitis may be at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, though the exact association isn’t clear. Both obesity and inadequate glucose control, a precursor of diabetes, are associated with a higher rate of candidiasis or yeast infection. Candidiasis is one of the most common causes of balanoposthitis.

What’s the outlook?

Balanoposthitis occurs when irritation affects the penis glans and foreskin. It has many causes, and often, more than one cause is involved.

The outlook for balanoposthitis is good. Treatments are very effective at clearing up irritation and relieving related symptoms. Washing and drying the foreskin can help to prevent balanoposthitis.