What is balanitis?

What is balanitis?

  Man smelling something bad


I’m about to ask you a question you’re not going to want to hear, but here I go anyway – how’s it smelling down there?


If you’ve come to this page then chances are things aren’t so fresh and you’re looking to find out why.


Well you’ve come to the right place, as we’re going to be talking about a condition called balanitis, and why it might be causing that funky smell that’s lingering in your trousers.


What is balanitis?


Balanitis is a skin irritation which affects the head of your penis.


It sounds like a big, serious condition, and it can be very annoying for the patient, but truthfully it isn’t usually that serious.


It can affect men of any age, with one in 30 uncircumcised men developing balanitis at one point in their lives.


Luckily, it can be cleared up quite easily, given the proper treatment.


What causes balanitis?


There are a few different causes of balanitis, which may explain why it’s such a common condition. The most common cause is poor personal hygiene.


If you don’t clean your penis properly or regularly, then this could cause irritation that leads to balanitis, so make sure to keep it clean.


Some of the other most common causes of balanitis include:


  • Irritation caused by soaps, or shower gels
  • Irritation caused by pee getting under the foreskin
  • Skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis
  • Thrush or an allergy to thrush in a woman’s vagina
  • Bacterial infection
  • Sexually transmitted infection
  • Children fiddling with their foreskin



What are the symptoms of balanitis?


If you have balanitis then you’re going to notice some irritating symptoms that you’ll struggle to ignore.


Some of the most common symptoms that you may experience if you have balanitis include:


  • A smelly penis
  • Irritation or soreness
  • Redness or swelling
  • A build-up of thick fluid
  • Pain when you pee
  • White or red blotches or lump
  • A shiny or waxy appearance
  • A tight foreskin that won’t pull back


What is the difference between balanitis and thrush?


Some people who have balanitis might confuse their condition with male thrush, which is why a diagnosis from a medical professional is so important.


The symptoms are very similar, however, if you have thrush you will sometimes notice a thick, white, cottage cheese-like discharge that doesn’t occur if you have balanitis.


To be absolutely sure which you have, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.



Do I have balanitis or an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection)?


Other conditions that are commonly confused with balanitis are Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).


I could list the differences between various STIs and balanitis, but we’d be here all year and you’re going to want to get some treatment as quickly as possible.


So, what I will say is if you think you might have either balanitis or an STI, go and see your doctor.


They’ll know a lot more about the possible causes of your irritation than I do, and they’ll be able to set you on the right track as quickly as possible.



Can children get balanitis?


Children can get balanitis, in fact, it’s quite common in children under the age of 4. This is because young children struggle to keep their penis clean as effectively as adults can.


Children may also find it difficult to clean beneath their foreskin, as they might not be able to pull it back fully until they are older.


However, you shouldn’t try to pull back a child’s foreskin to clean, as this can be painful and could even harm them.


Simply try to teach them good personal hygiene habits to try and prevent balanitis from happening again.


How to get rid of balanitis


If you think you may have balanitis, you should go to see your doctor right away so you can get the correct treatment.


As balanitis has different causes, your GP may recommend different treatments depending on the root cause of the irritation.


If your balanitis is caused by nothing more than skin irritation, your doctor may recommend a steroid cream to help to clear the irritation up.


If the cause is a yeast infection, or thrush, then they might recommend an antifungal cream or antifungal tablets instead.


Finally, you might be prescribed antibiotics if your balanitis is caused by a bacterial infection.


This is why you shouldn’t simply try to treat balanitis by yourself, but should see a doctor to be sure that you’re getting the right treatment for you.


When you are using the right treatment, your balanitis should clear up within seven days. If this doesn’t happen, make sure to go back to your GP to discuss what to do next.



Are there any home remedies for balanitis?


There aren’t any home remedies for balanitis, but there are some things you can do to help to prevent balanitis.


The most important thing that you can do is taking good care with your personal hygiene.


Make sure to keep your penis clean, and make sure you use the correct products when cleaning your genitalia.


Don’t use soap, bubble bath, shampoo, or any other products that could irritate your penis during cleaning, warm water is usually all you’ll need to keep it clean.


If you need to use something more to clean your penis, try using a soap substitute such as an emollient, which you can pick up from your pharmacy.


If you’re worried about a young child getting balanitis, make sure you help them to clean properly, but avoid using baby wipes when cleaning their penis.


If they’re still in nappies, make sure to change them regularly.



When should I go and see a doctor?


You should go to see your doctor if you think you have balanitis, to be sure that you’re getting the right treatment for you.


However, if you’ve read our article and think that the irritating symptoms around your penis aren’t quite the same as what you’re experiencing, make an appointment to go and see your doctor anyway. They’ll be able to give you an accurate diagnosis in no time.


Finally, if you’ve had unprotected sex, or think that you might have caught an STI somehow, make sure to see your doctor, just in case. You don’t want to leave something like that up to chance!



And now we know all there is to know about balanitis and why your penis might be smelling a bit funky.


Remember, if you’re not sure about what’s going on down there, go and see your doctor.


They’ll be able to help you out, and get you feeling (and smelling) right as rain in no time!


Laura Henderson - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 25 August 2022
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