We understand that this can be an embarrassing medical issue to talk about so thank you for contacting the Health at Hand team. Tightness of the foreskin also known as Phimosis may not cause any symptoms but sometimes it can cause passing water or making love uncomfortable.
What is it?
Phimosis is the inability to retract foreskin. Usually children under 5 years of age are unable to retract their foreskin but by the age of 10years the foreskin becomes fully retractable. In some children phimosis is due to congenital disorder.
What is Paraphimosis?
Paraphimosis is the entrapment of a retracted foreskin behind the coronal sulcus. Paraphimosis is a disease of uncircumcised or partially circumcised males.
What are the causes in adults?
Phomisis can affect adults due to scaring of the tissue of the foreskin. It can be due to poor hygiene which may lead to recurrent infection of the foreskin known as balanitis or balanitis xerotica obliterans. Sometimes forcing the foreskin to retract can cause micro abrasions or tears which can lead to swelling. Elderly men are more prone to phimosis because as we get older the skin loses it’s elasticity.
The penis needs to be washed once or twice a day, after fully retracting the foreskin or as much as you can. Instead of using soap, washing with emollients such as Oilatum bath additive, Oilatum shower gel, Cetraben bath additive, Oilatum plus shower gel Doublebase shower gel or Doublebase bath additive may be used.
You should not retract any skin that appears to be damaged as this will cause further scarring and worsen phimosis. This will need surgery in later life. This is why we suggest you should avoid using ‘phimocure’ or tuboids.
After washing it is important to dry the penis and any area between the foreskin and the penis thoroughly before applying any medical moisturizer or cream.
Studies have shown that applying a steroid cream or ointment can help up to 95% cases of phimosis and help to reduce the inflammation.
The difference between cream and ointment is that a cream is water based and rubs into the skin readily where as an ointment is oil based and may leave an oily feel but tends to stay on longer.
Stronger steroid creams such as Betnovate is often prescribed because it tends to work quicker than a mild steroid cream such as hydrocortisone.
Your GP may prescribe recommend 0.1 -0.05% betamethasone dipropionate applied to the preputial orifice twice a day for 4-6 weeks.
Steroid creams or ointments should be spread thinly on the inflamed skin only using a very small amount of the cream or ointment once or twice daily. It should be used continuously on a daily basis until the phimosis has disappeared altogether.
You may have no or only partial improvement at the start of using the Betnovate cream or ointment but by about 2months the phimosis may have greatly improved.
Once the phimosis has cleared it is important to continue to keep the area clean, dry and moisturised on a daily basis. Your doctor may prescribe moisturisers such as Oilatum, Diprobase cream or ointment, Doublebase cream, Epaderm, Hydromol Zerobase or Zerocream.
Long-term use of steroid creams can lead to thinning skin and other side effects. Normal regular use during flare up is unlikely to lead to thinning skin. If the skin does thin then stopping the use often reverses this effect.
Your doctor may take a swab to check for infections. If the swab results indicate that there is an infection then the doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
As you are aware other treatments mostly consist of various surgical methods including circumcision.
We suggest you discuss this matter further with your GP. If the GP is unable to resolve this condition then he may refer you to an urologist.
It is not a good idea to ignore this condition as tight foreskins may encourage tumours.
You may find the following website useful.
Answered by the Health at Hand nurses