What is Tight Foreskin?
Usually, the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis can be pulled back from the head (glans) of the penis. But in rare cases, the foreskin may become too tight and be unable to be retracted. This condition is called phimosis.
Most cases of phimosis resolve before adolescence, but it’s possible for the condition to last into adulthood. Although there are not any serious health complications related to phimosis, it’s associated with conditions that can cause soreness, swelling, and difficulty urinating.
What you should know
Your age may determine the cause of your phimosis. Children and adults may experience phimosis for different reasons.
In young boys, a tight foreskin is considered congenital, which means it’s something they have at birth. When this happens, it’s categorized as physiologic phimosis. The foreskin usually becomes more pliable over the next few years, with phimosis completely resolving by age 7.
If a boy is circumcised, then phimosis isn’t possible.
The other category is pathologic phimosis. This means that phimosis is due to an infection, inflammation, or scarring from an underling condition.
Certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause balanitis. Symptoms of balanitis, such as swelling and inflammation, can then lead to a tight foreskin. Though less common, other skin conditions can also lead to phimosis or cause the condition to worsen. These include:
Lichen planus: This itchy, noncontagious skin disorder can cause shiny, flat bumps to appear on the penis. Topical steroid creams are usually effective at making the rash disappear.
Lichen sclerosus: This can cause white patches to develop on the foreskin and sometimes the glans. Lichen sclerosus can also cause scarring of the foreskin. Corticosteroid ointments may help. In some cases, circumcision may be necessary.
Eczema: This common, long-term skin condition causes dry patches to form on the skin. Certain types of soaps, the way you dry yourself, and other triggers can cause flare-ups. Work with your doctor to learn how to avoid or limit triggers. The doctor may also prescribe corticosteroid ointments and other medications to help manage your symptoms.
Psoriasis: This chronic skin condition can cause crusty, dry patches of skin to form as a result of abnormal skin cell production. Your doctor can help you identify any possible triggers and prescribe corticosteroids to help relieve your symptoms.
The way phimosis is treated depends on its cause and severity. In some cases, no treatment is necessary. But if a tight foreskin causes symptoms, you should consult a doctor about your treatment options which can include, exercising, over-the-counter medication, prescription medication or surgery.