Balanitis, also known as balanoposthitis, is simply an inflammation of the head of the penis and the foreskin. It is an umbrella term that can include a variety of skin conditions or infections that affect the penis. Though often painful and unsightly, treatment is simple and a full recovery is almost always guaranteed.
Balanitis is typically the result of poor hygiene in uncircumcised men. Areas under and around the foreskin require daily cleaning with warm water (no soap), and not doing so can increase the risk of balanitis. The inflammation can be the result of a number of things such as infection or using a harsh soap.
Balanitis can also be a secondary condition caused by reactive arthritis, lichen sclerosis et atrophicus, diabetes, syphilis, scabies or even a contact allergy caused by condoms. Secondary balanitis may present with a skin rash elsewhere, though non-specific balanitis, known as intertrigo, is common. Intertrigo is simply the presence of rash or redness in the folds of the skin, and is common among obese people.
The symptoms of balanitis are myriad and can include a rash that may present as smooth, scaly, spotty or patchy; redness accompanied with swelling or tenderness; discomfort in the form of pain or itching; an oozing discharge from the head of the penis; and, in severe cases, phimosis, or difficulty pulling back the foreskin.
The method of treatment used is determined by the cause of the balanitis. In the case of infection, antibiotics in either pill form or as a cream may be prescribed. Should the balanitis be the result of a skin condition, steroid creams may be used. In the event of a severe case of balanitis, the best course of treatment is simple circumcision.
According to DermNet New Zealand, a combination of astringent compresses, topical anti-fungal medication, topical antibiotic and a mild topical steroid is the most effective way to treat balanitis. Types of drugs used include cephalexin (Keflex), codeine and topical bacitracin and clotrimazole.
At-home treatments include keeping the foreskin and the head of the penis clean and dry, and avoiding harsh soaps or other irritants such as lubricated condoms. If the balanitis is not caused by a secondary condition, this is one of the best ways to treat it without medical intervention.
As always consult with a physician before using any drug. Your doctor will discuss with you your symptoms and the best possible course of treatment.