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What is phimosis?

Phimosis means that the foreskin over the head of the penis is very tight and cannot be pulled back easily. This only happens with an uncircumcised penis.

Phimosis is normal in newborns. It usually goes away by the time a boy is 7 to 10 years of age.

Phimosis may happen in adults after an injury, infection, or irritation. If it happens after an infection or injury it may require treatment.

What is the cause?

In older boys and men, phimosis may be caused by:

  • Pulling the foreskin back with too much force when cleaning the penis. The force can tear the skin and create a scar that causes the foreskin to get tighter.
  • Infections of the penis or urinary tract, which can cause swelling, irritation, and scarring

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Not being able to pull the foreskin back all the way
  • Pain and swelling
  • Problems urinating

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child.

How is it treated?

Treatment for phimosis depends on the cause and how severe your child’s symptoms are. Treatment may include:

  • Gentle stretching by moving your baby’s foreskin back and forth each day. Your child’s healthcare provider may also prescribe a steroid cream to help soften the tight foreskin so it can move more easily.
  • Teaching your child to gently move his foreskin back and forth each day during his bath or after he urinates. This helps to keep the foreskin from getting stuck again.

Your child may also need treatment for infections, swelling, or irritation of the penis.

If your child has severe symptoms or ongoing problems, his healthcare provider may advise surgery to remove the foreskin, called circumcision.

How can I take care of my child?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your child’s healthcare provider. Ask your provider:

  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent ongoing phimosis?

To help prevent the problem from happening again:

  • When moving the foreskin to clean the penis, do it gently, and return the foreskin to its normal place when you are finished cleaning.
  • Once your child is old enough, teach him to gently return his foreskin to its normal place after bathing or urinating.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.3 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-16
Last reviewed: 2014-10-16
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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