In male infants, the foreskin – a double layer of tissue that covers the penis – does not retract at all. This is normal, and parents are advised not to attempt to pull it back; as the child grows, the adhesions that hold it in place wear away naturally, and by early adolescence, most boys are able to pull it back completely. However, some men have a tight foreskin that cannot be fully retracted even into adulthood. This condition can be quite uncomfortable, and in some individuals, it can impair sexual activity. Because of this, many readers have questions about how to treat at and how it can impact their penis health. Some of the most common questions are answered here.
1. Why can’t I pull my foreskin back all the way? In very rare cases, males will reach adulthood without being able to fully retract their foreskin; this condition is referred to as physiological phimosis.
Men who develop problems with a tight foreskin after it has previously been retracted may have a disorder known as pathological phimosis. This is often caused by recurring infections of the foreskin due to poor hygiene, or by scarring due to repeated attempts to force the skin back before the adhesions underneath have completely worn away.
2. How does phimosis affect penis health? Men with phimosis may experience discomfort or pain during sex. Other issues may include ongoing foreskin pain, swelling, frequent urinary tract infections and balanitis (an inflammatory condition of the foreskin that can also cause the problem). Phimosis has also been linked to penile cancer.
3. Can phimosis be corrected? What are the treatment options? For men with physiological phimosis, treatment often involves plastic surgery to remove any adhesions, and to lengthen the frenulum (the band of skin that attaches the foreskin to the shaft) if necessary. Some doctors may also recommend circumcision.
Pathological phimosis is primarily treated with topical corticosteroid creams, usually for several weeks. Because most cases are caused by improper hygiene, adequate attention to cleaning the area is also urged prevent the problem from recurring. For men with ongoing problems, circumcision may be preferred.
4. Can I stretch my foreskin so that it pulls back all the way? Men with physiological phimosis may sometimes attempt to correct the problem by pulling and stretching the foreskin. Since this can actually cause scarring of the tissue that may compound the problem, it is best to talk to a doctor before attempting any at-home solutions of this kind.
5. What is the best way to care for the foreskin? Adequate hygiene is the most important factor in treating and preventing phimosis, along with many other common penis problems. The area should be cleaned every day, at least once a day, as follows:
* In the shower, or standing by a sink, very gently retract the foreskin as far as it will comfortably go. Do not yank or try to force it back, as this can cause injury and increase the risk of recurring phimosis.
* Under running water, use the finger tips to clean away any accumulation of smegma and other material. A gentle cleanser may be used at this stage, but avoid regular body soaps or shower gels.
* Rinse the area thoroughly to remove any traces of cleanser.
* Pat the area dry; allow it to dry thoroughly before replacing the foreskin.
To promote the overall health of the penis, including the foreskin, a penis health crème (health professionals recommend Man1 Man Oil) may be applied daily following a shower or bath. A formula that is enriched with disease fighting nutrients like vitamins C and D can support healthy cell function, while emollients such as Shea butter can promote healing and leave the skin smooth and resilient.