What is balanitis?
Balanitis is an inflammation of the glans, which would be the head of the penis or the clitoris in women. In men, when the inner part of the foreskin is affected in addition to the glans, it is called balanoposthitis, an inflammation that can only be suffered by people who are not circumcised.
Balanitis is a frequent cause of consultation in urology.
Causes of Balanitis
The causes of balanitis are multiple:
- Infections (by bacteria or fungi such as Candida and more rarely by parasites). Multiple sexually transmitted diseases are responsible for balanitis. The use of some medicines for the treatment of diabetes (SGLT2 inhibitors) that work by eliminating sugar in the urine, is associated with an increased risk of balanitis.
- Skin problems that affect the glans, such as pemphigus, pemphigoid, psoriasis, etc.
- Associated with joint problems ( reactive arthritis, Reiter’s disease).
- Contact allergies (contact dermatitis). They can be seen in relation to the use of soaps, gels, creams, sexual tools, condoms, etc.
- For irritants.
- Associated with morbid obesity.
- Traumatic (pant zippers).
- Due to poor hygiene.
- Of unknown cause. There are many balanitis of unknown causes, such as balanitis circinata.
What symptoms does Balianitis produce?
The symptoms of balanitis develop over several days, between 3 and 7 days.
It can produce any of the following symptoms or signs:
- Pain, burning, itching, and swelling in the glans area.
- The appearance of small reddish spots on the glans can sometimes ulcerate.
- The appearance of a whitish, purulent liquid in the area of the glans or between the glans and the foreskin. If left untreated, the swelling and purulent fluid can cause adhesions between the glans and the foreskin that lead to the appearance of phimosis, that is, the inability of the foreskin to slide back and leave the glans visible. Phimosis can cause difficulty in passing the urine stream or it can cause sexual dysfunction.
Balanitis can be associated with non-sexual symptoms such as fever, joint pain, the appearance of ulcers in the mouth, swelling of various glands, tiredness, and general malaise.
How is it diagnosed?
The diagnosis of balanitis is clinical, paraphimosis must be ruled out, which is a retraction of the foreskin that produces a progressive swelling of the glans and is a medical emergency.
To find out its causes, it may be necessary to make cultures of the whitish fluid (if any) or, if any, of purulent fluid emitted by the urethra.
Can it be prevented?
Cleaning and hygiene of the area reduce the risk of balanitis. Since many balanitis is caused by sexually transmitted infections, the measures used to prevent these diseases, such as the use of condoms, reduce the risk of the disease.
How to cure Balanitis?
Obviously, the treatment of balanitis is that of the responsible disease:
- In the case of balanitis due to a bacterial infection, treatment is usually with antibiotics administered orally. The type of antibiotic depends on whether it is a sexually transmitted infection or not.
- In the case of infection by a fungus of the Candida type, the treatment is carried out with local antifungal creams.
- In other cases, there may be an indication for the application of corticosteroid creams.
We have exposed the following prevention measures:
- Daily cleaning of the glans and genitals. Special attention must be paid to removing the foreskin to avoid the accumulation of residues (smegma) and the appearance of adhesions.
- Wash your hands before going to the bathroom, if you work with chemicals that can irritate delicate skin.
- In case of recurring balanitis, saline rinses or chamomile baths of the glans penis and foreskin can prevent a recurrence.
- The use of condoms during intercourse, in addition to protecting us against other STIs, prevents the appearance of balanitis. If the symptoms are related to condom use, try to use one that is designed for sensitive skin.
- If your partner suffers from vaginal candidiasis, it is advisable to suspend sexual intercourse until the infection is completely cured.
- Follow and complete the pharmacological treatments prescribed by the specialist. Correct compliance with therapy can prevent the recurrence of subsequent episodes.
- Control of systemic diseases that predispose to balanitis, such as diabetes or immunosuppression.