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Phimosis is a condition of the penis. It refers to a narrowing of the foreskin, the skin covering the glans, making it painful or impossible to completely uncover the glans. It is often of a congenital cause, i.e. present from birth. Phimosis is actually a normal condition in newborns, the foreskin sticking to the glans. Phimosis can sometimes be responsible for local infections if there is a lack of proper hygiene, or if it is too infrequently pulled back.


In addition to the narrowness of the foreskin and the difficulty to retract it, there are few symptoms associated with phimosis, sometimes only a finer urine stream or pain during urination. However, there are complications if phimosis is not treated, including a risk of infection of the glans, called balanitis: in this case, the penis becomes painful, hot, increased in volume at times, and a whitish discharge can come out spontaneously or upon pressure of the penis. Another potential consequence of a phimosis is: if the foreskin is forced back, it may get stuck on the penis at the base of the glans and constrict the latter, resulting in pain and swelling.


The diagnosis of phimosis is obvious to the naked eye and confirmed by the inability of the examiner to retract the foreskin. The diagnosis of balanitis is made upon examining the signs described above, and no further review is necessary. Paraphimosis is also diagnosed visually.


For infants and young children, in whom the phimosis is often natural, a doctor will only intervene if urination is hampered. Preputial adhesions gradually disappear over the first years of life. Later, the treatment will depend on the degree of tightening of the foreskin around the glans. It can range from a simple progressive stretching of the foreskin, through the application of corticosteroid creams, to surgery: circumcision.


There is no way to prevent congenital phimosis, but in other cases, it is important to keep your penis in good health, regularly peel back the foreskin, and never force the latter.

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